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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 November 2006, 15:47 GMT
My message to youth: Nursultan Nazarbayev
Nursultan Nazarbayev
Nazarbayev has been president since the fall of the USSR
As part of the Generation Next season, the BBC has been asking famous figures for their thoughts about childhood - both their own and what they think of young people now.

Here, Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev gives his view.

Children are so frank; they say whatever is on their minds, while the adults think before they say something.

There is a saying we have about this frankness: "When life is tough, you wish you were a toddler." I wish I was a baby, who is not tormented by all these thoughts about past and the future.

The difference between the time I was a child and the childhood of kids today is like the difference between day and night.

I grew up in a poor village at my parents' home. We children had to work with our parents day and night. We did not have enough of anything, not even food.

Today this just sounds absurd. And when you're telling this to children now, they think you are telling them a fairy tale. And thank God that's the way it is.

In Kazakhstan, children now have an opportunity to study anywhere in the world.

We send 3,000 students to all universities across the globe, they live better lives, they study at the best universities and get the best education. This is an immense step forward and we still cannot believe things changes so much.

When I was a kid, for some reason I dreamt of becoming a geologist. My father worked in the steppe. He had horses, he bred cattle. Once, he brought home a man who was dying. He found this man in the steppe. And that man was a geologist.

My father said the man had just been left in the steppe, all on his own without food or anything. Everybody had left him, and he would die had my father not picked him up.

And my father said: "Is this what you want to become?" It made a huge impression on me.

Geology, for me, was something connected to searching mountains, woods, people who find gold, silver and so on. Seeing that man was striking.

When a person enters this world, that person becomes increasingly conscious. The creator gives us a choice: good or evil, hatred or love, virtue or vice, and I always tell my children and my grandchildren to make their choices carefully.

I tell them to make choices they will not regret, to choose the right things and to be kind. And I hope God helps them in making these choices.

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