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2019 TIME 100 honoree Fred Swaniker urged everyone in the room to keep doing “hard things” in a powerful toast at the 2019 TIME 100 Gala in New York on Tuesday evening.

“All of us who are privileged enough to be healthy, to be alive, to have education and to have influence, our role is not to do small things and to solve small problems,” Swaniker said. “The only way that we can justify privilege is by solving the world’s biggest problems, and by doing hard things.”

Swaniker seeks to educate and inspire the youth of Africa, who make up 60% of the continent’s population, with three educational initiatives. He said Tuesday that the message of doing hard things is a constant within all of them.

Swaniker is a co-founder and trustee of the African Leadership Academy, an organization which works “to develop the future Nelson Mandela, the next Wangari Maathai and the African Bill Gates,” the organization’s website states. Swaniker’s other programs, African Leadership Network and African Leadership University, are working toward developing 3 million ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in the coming decades.

An MBA recipient from Stanford Business School, Swaniker has been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

“Fred has the passion, understanding and ability to take this great continent forward, through its young people,” Mo Ibrahim, the founder of Celtel International and chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, wrote of Swaniker for the TIME 100 issue. “I am filled with hope knowing that he is there to help the next generation of African leaders to blossom.”

Read the full text of Swaniker’s tribute at the Gala below:

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Write to Rachel E. Greenspan at

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