Editor’s Note: Taylor Wainani Traub was a youth delegate in the APEC Voices of the Future conference, a weeklong event that coincided with APEC. She gave a presentation on “the importance of young people envisioning and sharing their dreams for their lives, their island and the world.”

It was great to meet with and to be in the presence of the great leaders from my state and the youth delegates from all around the world. It was assuring to hear that these people have the same concerns, hopes and dreams for their homeland as I have for mine. It shows that we’re not alone here.

APEC is about establishing partnerships to solve the world’s biggest problems. That is what happened for me last summer as the Hawaiian youth delegate at the Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development.

When I was invited to speak at APEC Voices of the Future Summit, I had no idea what to expect. When I arrived at Kamehameha Schools, I realized the significance of this opportunity. I was escorted right down to the front of the auditorium, sitting behind Governor Neil Ambercrombie, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, and Mayor Peter Carlisle. I was in awe. After the lovely performance by the Kamehameha students, I was introduced with ten people as one of the “honored guests” – received such a beautiful lei.

“How cool is this!” I thought. I was fascinated and excited – and equally nervous. The closer it got to the time I had to get up on that stage, the more my nerves escalated. I felt such a responsibility. I was speaking not just myself but for all Hawaiian youth as well as for all the many other young people with the same vision, those I’ve met at the Institute’s Youth Leadership Summit.

What would they say if they could be here today? What would they want me to say? How can I make them proud? That was what made me most nervous. Not so much that I was speaking to the APEC youth delegates from 21 countries, it was how can I best represent all these young people.

The APEC Voices for the Future keynote speaker was Nainoa Thompson. I was so honored to be on the same stage with him. I had enjoyed working with the Polynesian Voyaging Society. While waiting my turn, I shared my experiences with him. He was so kind to me. He shared about his first speaking experience and encouraged me to speak from my heart. Eventually I calmed down, centered myself and told myself the right words will come. And they did. I did it!

I’ve always been a proud Hawaiian. Sharing my culture, my traditions, my island’s green initiatives with other islands inspired me to want to share them with other youth delegates at APEC. I closed with the Hawaiian proverb Ō­’­lelo No’eau: Malia paha he iki ‘unu, pa’a ka pōhaku nui ‘a’ole e ka’a: Perhaps it is the small stone that keep the big rock from rolling down.

I started feeling so confident I even answered the first question during the Q & A from the audience. After a while it was fun to be on the stage and be with all these important people. I remember my first words after was “that was kind of fun”. This was definitely a whole new experience for me.

About the author: Wainani Traub, from Ocean View, Hawaii, is a junior at West Hawaii Explorations Academy on the Big Island.