Last week I had a unique opportunity to watch Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam speak. Dr. Kalam was regarded in India as the People’s President and served in office from 2002-2007. He is known, interestingly enough, to play a key role in India’s space race and nuclear development, quite odd combination for such a humble man. It was not only amazing to see the former President but to also have a lecture, as his roots are truly academic. This put icing on the cake. Now I will preface this, however, that I am not deeply connected to India’s politics and thus my thoughts are from my initial impression.
I had the privilege to join about a hundred of Cambridge’s top Indian professors and researchers to fill an intimate sized lecture room. There is no doubt that Cambridge has been home for many Indian nationals including some of my close friends here. Some of the most famous alums include- the cricketer Prince Ranjitsinhji (1872-1933), India’s Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) and Rajiv Gandhi (1944-1989); and Amartya Sen (born 1933), foremost economist and Nobel Prize winner.
What I wanted to write about was not necessarily about the topic that Dr. Kalam spoke about- Creative Leadership. Although the lecture was great in of it self as Dr. Kalam highlighted different personal experiences tying them to leadership. What I would like to highlight are some of my initial thoughts about the talk and my impressions of a leader from one of the world’s most powerful countries.
Dr. Kalam spoke beautifully, and clearly demonstrated a unique passion for education, especially for the youth. When asked by a Chinese professor about the future relationship of India and China, Dr. Kalam’s response was simple. “I believe they are naturally allies,” and this begins with righteousness in the heart, he ended. The point Dr. Kalam stressed was that these two natural allies must be taught to work together from three key influential players in a child’s life- the mother, the father, and (this was the best part because all the Indian’s in the room said it in unison) the teacher. This comes to show how much Indians have continuously valued education, which has been reinforced through my own personal friendships.
A question that completely was expected but the response caught me off guard was when Dr. Kalam was asked by a Physics Post-Doc student (when she mentioned that, Dr. Kalam asked what her dissertation was on), what do you recommend for all the Indians who have left India and have settled down? Dr. Kalam’s response was straight forward and honest- do your best for yourself and your country (that you live in). I was honestly expecting a response such as – don’t forget India. Yet, Dr. Kalam showed realism in that many Indians who have immigrated to other countries have already settled down and are raising their children. To these people, India becomes a second home that is never forgotten and always remembered.
The best moment was at the end when a professor of business was giving a closing thank you, Dr. Kalam interrupted him and clearly made the point that he can be emailed through his website and he will ensure a response within 24 hours.
(This reminded me of a side thought- are people successful because they response within 24 hours or because people responded within 24 hours they are successful? This was a question that was proposed as major companies such as Amazon and Ebay were booming.)
Just some thoughts…
| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |