Peace ambassador for life By Serena Ioane

Edmond Saksak, a senior from Vanuatu, says he is preparing himself to lead his country

Being a leader was his childhood dream, Edmond Saksak, a senior double majoring in political science and social work, said he wants to serve his people in the future.

“I have always liked doing service because seeing others happy makes me the happiest person.” His professors and friends shared how great a leader he will be in Vanuatu.

He explained how he learned many lessons throughout his life that have prepared him to be a leader. “I am going to help my people just as Jesus would have me do,” he said.

Christina Akanoa, an assistant professor of the Business & Government Department, said Saksak took several political science classes from her. She supports Saksak’s goal in running for Parliament for the Vanuatu government.

Akanoa added Saksak has shown great leadership qualities. “He is genuinely concerned about people and cares about them. He has proven that to me during our many class discussions. He is always thinking and always likes to pick my brain about certain topics.”

She continued, saying, Saksak is mature in his thinking and articulates well. “He is committed and very smart. This will make him a great candidate for the Vanuatu government,” Akanoa shared, “I admire his honesty, passion, genuine love for his people and others. He is sincere and has strong moral standards. He will be a great leader someday.”

Saksak said he is willing to become a leader in any department of the government in Vanuatu to make sure services are received and hold those involved in corruption accountable. “My number one goal is to make sure the distribution of services is given fairly throughout our six provinces and to leave no one behind,” Saksak said.

Photo by Li Ho Yin

Preparing to lead

Currently, Saksak said he is preparing himself emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally to meet people’s needs, and connect well with people and political rivals.

Line-Noue Memea Kruse, an adjunct professor of the Culture, Language & Performing Arts Department, said Saksak has been in her political science and upper-level Pacific Islands Studies classes, and he is one of her best students.

She shared how Saksak has been very civic-minded in his academic endeavors, his class projects and personal engagements always center on transparency, education and honesty. “This is why his university studies here at BYUH is critical to his professional pursuits because we try to foster these exact values and characteristics,” she said.

Kruse believes BYUH and all her classes benefited immensely from Saksak’s passion, critical thinking, empathy and good works to other students inside and outside of classes. “Edmond is not part of the herd mentality. He thinks for himself and will go head to head with any professor if he believes his position has a stronger argument,” she commented.

“I remember in my Pacific Islands Studies Law and Development course, we were talking about violence in homes targeting women’s exclusion from being legally protected in the villages.”

Kruse shared, “Edmond was the strongest voice in the advocacy of child protection and the rights for all to be free from violence and pain. He made recommendations in parliament for bills to be introduced that could protect women and children.”

Photo provided by Edmund Saksak

Kruse said Saksak is the epitome of why BYUH exists, “to further educate Pacific students to return home to build economies and strengthen families but also to build the Kingdom of God by loving everyone and not excluding anyone.”

Saksak plans to go to graduate school after graduating from BYUH, focusing on international policy and development program of the University of Hawaii or the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

“I know it will take another two more years, but I believe pursuing a master’s degree will help me to be a better leader.”

Saksak said he already started to prepare for the entry exams of the master’s program. He explained that today’s economic and social challenges demand more knowledge to navigate the global aspects of development.

“I believe the knowledge I will gain from my masters will help me promote and implement policies that will make the world a better place for everyone.”

When he will become a leader

Saksak shared that when he becomes a leader in Vanuatu, he wants to ensure human rights, gender equality and identity are being respected. Second, he wants to address the services from the government are distributed equally and fairly.

Third, he wants to reevaluate and redesign some policies to bless people’s lives. Fourth, he wants to stop international corrupt people from hiding in Vanuatu because Vanuatu is a free-tax haven for them. “I will make sure if they are running away from being taxed by their country, then I will tax them in Vanuatu.”

Fifth, he wants to increase intercultural competence. “Intercultural competence is another interesting subject when I become a leader of a small nation with only a population of 300,000, but speaks over 100 different languages and different traditions.”

Photo by Li Ho Yin

Akanoa shared, “He will make a great leader someday. He will definitely influence and implement change in Vanuatu. He is a smart student who is committed and always tries his best in every given assignment.

“Edmund loves to read and will always do extra reading for my classes. He asks questions, he articulates well and participates when needed.”

Akanoa hopes she has helped Saksak understand concepts of politics, particularly for small island states such as Vanuatu. “I have taught in most of my Oceanic government classes about current issues, both regional and national, that our Pacific Island people are facing and how we can assess, analyze and implement for change if it needs to be.”

She added, “It is our role as island students in the context of our nation-states and how we can contribute to resolving issues relevant to our well-being.”

Akanoa said Saksak is also a member of the Human Rights Chapter at BYUH, and they have been actively discussing dominant issues in Oceanic regions, such as climate change, seabed mining, fisheries, good governance and gender equality. Akanoa said she creates assignments that allow the students to actively participate and articulate their thoughts on these issues through in-depth research.

United Nations’ peace ambassador

Saksak attended the United Nations’ Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders in Feb. 2020, in Bangkok, Thailand. “The summit aims to empower young people and inspire youth who are passionate about positive social changes,” according to the University of New South Wales’ news. Saksak said he has sworn to become a UN World Peace Ambassador for a year at the summit.

Although he swore to be a World Peace Ambassador for a year, Saksak said he is a peace ambassador for life because of his covenants with the Lord. “When I read the teachings of our Savior, Mosiah 18:8-10, I learned that we are officially covenanted with the Lord to be his peace ambassadors for a lifetime.”

It gives him a broader look into people’s lives and helps him understand that the only way to fight injustices is to fight with love and peace, Saksak added.

Photo provided by Edmund Saksak

Saksak shared his favorite quote by U.S. Senator John Lewis, “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

Saksak said he believes to make a difference in the world, he must be different from the world. He said BYUH helped him obtain secular and religious higher education and build connections with people from all over the world.

Kayla Kaimarama Willie, a senior from the Cook Islands majoring in political science, said Saksak is a hardworking and dedicated student. “He knows what he wants and is self-motivated to accomplish his goals. He is confident in all he does, and not afraid to speak his mind even when his opinions are viewed as unpopular,” Willie commented.

According to Willie, Saksak aspires to respect different views, analyze problems and identify the best solutions based on what is good and right and in the best interest of those around him. “He has integrity, good work ethics. He is a good team player and compassionate. He takes personal responsibility and serves those around him.”