Robert Kennedy Award to Mr Ibrahim Rahman of Harvard

Posted by muriel / on 10/09/2010 / 0 Comments

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Source:  A Friend

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WASHINGTON: Mir Ibrahim Rahman has joined the distinguished ranks of  alumni awarded the Robert F Kennedy Public Service Award from Harvard  University, one of the top centres of learning in the world.

"Mir  is only the second individual from South Asia to  have received this Award.  The Award is considered the most prestigious  honour for students of the Harvard Kennedy School of   Government, and is  presented to those who have not only made a mark in the past for their  distinguished public service work but also excelled in this field during  their educational career at the university. The committee that selects  individuals to be honoured comprises senior professors of the  institution."

 

MIR'S SPEECH AT HARVARD:

Being  the grandson of the founder of the largest circulated Urdu newspaper of  the world, I remember (when was in 2nd grade) asking him why he put me  in an American school - a quite novel and somewhat controversial move  in Pakistan at the time.

My grandfather smiled, I put you in an  American school because they will teach you the most important tool you  will ever need ... how to ask questions ... how to think in questions  ... the rest is really up to you. Oh and he also mentioned that the  best school in the world to teach you how to ask the right questions is a  place called Harvard.

Studying American history, I am amazed  by your questions. You began by asking if it was fair for a king to tax  without representation - and that question led you to the most eloquent  ideas of the declaration of independence and the bill of rights ...  ideas and ideals that, that led you to a unique country of your own.

 When your citizen Rosa Parks, asked why she cant sit on the other side  of the bus, a civil rights movement started that led you to have the  first African-American president - showing the world how tolerant and  fair one can be to their minorities.

When you asked why everyone cant  have equal pursuit of happiness, based on merit, you formed the best  entrepreneurial culture, where mans most unique gift, our ideas, are  valued better than anywhere else on the planet.So many  progressives and hopeful people around the world rely on this country to  be a beacon of progress and hope of mankind. Progress and hope that has  come from your tradition of questions.

So today as I stand here  before you... I have some questions my grandfather would have wanted me  to ask.

I am not advocating that Iran should have the right to  nuclear weapons but I am asking why isn’t there a debate. Why a place  like Harvard can hold a debate in the middle of th Forum on Iran,  without a proper Iranian point of view presented?

I am not saying  that Israel, as well as Islamic dictatorships and illegitimate rulers  for that matter, should not be out rightly supported by the US, but I am  asking why there is no debate about the measure of that support and the  costs of that support to the US and to the World.

At times I  feel that due to political correctness/politeness, and not just  ideology, America avoid many real politica issues.

I am curious  why US mainstream media portrays Socialism as a bad word - as bad as  communism? I am not saying the US, like all industrialized nations,  should provide healthcare to its citizens, but I am asking why the  difference between socialism and communism isn’t debated by the media?

I  am not saying the US should not spend $3 trillion in the  Iraq/Afghanistan wars or that its annual military annual budget should  not be more than the entire world combined but why isn’t there proper  national debate about what is the return on investment?

I am not  asking the country which has the highest rate of lawsuits per capita,  and that believes in its accountability system, why it isn’t suing those  responsible for an illegal war against Iraq, leading to millions of  deaths, but I am asking why isn’t this issue being debated at least?

I  am not saying that Joe the plumber should know about every corner of  the world better than h does his 1992 world series baseball statistics  but I am wondering whose interest it is serving for the average American  to be one of the most ill informed world citizens in this age of  globalization.

I am not saying that the American political system  is no longer the ideal representative system to balance efficiency with  fairness, but should you not debate how effective a representative  system can be where its average congressman just to get re-elected has  to raise betwee $10,000-30,000... a week! (and where 95% of congressmen  are re-elected!)

I am not saying that DC should not have 40,000+  lobbyist spending 4 billion dollars a year, but why isn’t there a  debate whether one of the reason you don’t see as much corruption in  American politics compared to other countries is because you have  legalized corruption/bribery - aka as lobbying. (some preliminary  research shows that up to 70% of discretionary budget is linked to  lobbyists!)

My intentions are to provoke thought and not  provocation. We may not agree with the answers to these questions, but I  hope you agree that we must ask these questions and encourage national  debate.

My grandfather believed in the great American tradition  of questions and I believe the solutions will come through living that  very tradition.

In the end, I leave with you one last question  paraphrasing the great Rabbi Hillel ... If not here, at Harvard,.... then  where? If not now, in this class today, then when? And if not you, Anne,  Steve, John, Professor McCarthy ... and all of us ... then who?

 

 

 

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