Once In a Lifetime Speech

We had the largest of its kind company gathering at palace grounds yesterday. On the occasion, I had the honour of listening to His Excellency, The President Of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. To cut a long story short, I can describe the feelings at the end of the speech in one single word – SPELLBOUND!

Let me begin at the beginning. The theme of the event was Innovation and Leadership. The fact that The President, in spite of his busy schedule, actually customized his speech for the occasion speaks volumes about his meticulousness. The President basically spoke of something called World Knowledge Platform. While I don’t want to go into the details of this proposal, it would suffice to say that it is exactly what the name says – a proposal to bring together the “knowledge workers” of the world over for the betterment of the world as a whole.

Now comes the interesting part. After putting forth every point, he pointed out the relevance of this point in the context. “What is the importance of this here? What role does your company have to play in this scenario?” And then, he very accurately stated what responsibility the company should take up to make this a reality. This impressed me mightily. Where every other so-called “leader” just repeats the same speech over and over again, function after function, day after day, year upon year; we have a President who has taken the interest and the pains to come up with such a striking plan, something that really matters! I urge all of you to go through the website http://www.presidentofindia.nic.in. You will be amazed at the super brains of our President.

The President has proposed several plans for rural development in India. And it all seems plausible, only it needs whole-hearted participation of the 540 million odd “knowledge workers” of the country. Of particular interest are his ideas of PURA (something to do with rural development, I don’t exactly remember the expansion), and some idea about an inter-connected grid of 5 grids which ultimately forms an Economic Grid.

When asked “What do you think are the necessary qualities to be a good leader”, The President listed 3 points:

1. Vision: He cited the example of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, who had a vision as early as in the 1960’s – that India should launch her own satellite. Today that vision has been realized.

2. Confidence that the vision will be Achieved: Again, Vikram Sarabhai had not simply said something random. He had the confidence that it is achievable and with that end in mind, he worked his entire life.

3. But these 2 qualities are not enough. At the end of the day, a leader must be a good human being!

Another question posed to him was “What do you think are the most important factors to propel India to the fore in the next 10 years?” To this, The President replied:

  1. Development of Human capital.
  2. Energy Independence – This could be realized through judicious mix of Solar power, Bio-fuel and Nuclear energy.

And this one takes the cake. When asked what his most memorable and happiest moment so far was, The President replied thus:

    • In 1987, when the satellite that he and his team worked on, was launched and the satellite successfully placed into orbit, that gave him immense satisfaction.
    • After that, when a 2000 km range missile was developed by his team and according to specifications, within budget, that was a very happy moment too.
    • Then, when He was in Pokhran and the earth shook – the realization dawned: India was a Nuclear Power. That was a proud moment too.
    • All these were happy moments, BUT, the happiest was something totally different. It seems a doctor once told Dr. Kalam “What do you want to prove by launching a missile? Look at this poor girl – she has polio and she carries 3 kgs of weight in her crutches!! Do something for her; it will be much more meaningful.” So Dr. Kalam and his team set down to work and reduced the weight of some of the material used for the missile (FRO) from 3 kgs to 300 grams. They used this ultra-light material for the girl’s crutches. “When the child walked normally and I saw her parents wipe their tears – That was the happiest moment of my life”

Now it’s up to you to decide whether The President deserved the Three (Not one, not two but 3) standing ovations that he received!

However, this brings a few questions to the fore –

  • Why is it that the right person is always at the wrong place? Make no mistake – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam is a great visionary in every sense of the phrase. Given the power, he has the potential to turn India into a knowledge society free of all prejudices. Which brings us to the next question
  • What powers does The President of India really have? First of all, Dr. Kalam has been the only President in recent times to have really utilized whatever little powers he has (as was demonstrated in the recent Office of Profit case). But these powers don’t amount to much (which was again shown in the Office of Profit case).

Regardless, please don’t ever let go of an opportunity to listen to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s speech if you ever come across one. He is a tremendous motivator. You can’t help but feel extra-ordinary respect for him. Hope that his vision is realized in the nearer future.


3 comments to Once In a Lifetime Speech

  • I have 2 words for you. 'Lucky dog'! You are really lucky to have listened to the great man. And yes, as you said, I adored him from a long time.

    Btw, PURA means Providing Urban amenities to Rural Areas. This is Dr. Kalam's flagship project which intends to reduce the growing divide b/w urban and rural areas.

    How I wish his vision come true!!

  • Hey ABHI .. u r stealing the limelight from me.. I'm supposed to be the statistician and the guy who remembers expansions blah blah..this no fair [:(]

    Anyways, The Prseident has laid out the plans for PURA in astonishing detail.. do go through the website when u hv time.. and u better fasten ur seat belt.. u'l b in grave danger of falling off ur seat in awe

  • Anonymous

    You are right about Kalam being a visionary. Implementation is more important and will require harsh political decisions in certain spheres which will not be so easy- I am being realistic not cynical.

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