Distinguished Guests; General Shah; Fellow Aligarians; Friends; Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for that kind introduction.
Thank you for your warm welcome and your hospitality.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to Tariq Siddiqui and Ghufran Siddiqui for inviting me to speak on this special occasion.
Thank you, General Shah, for joining us this evening. You always lift our spirit. You provide the example and set the standard. Thank you for helping and advocating to create a just environment where people of different faiths can work together to help shape a better future for India. I admire your strong belief in embracing hope over fears and in building a diverse, tolerant, and fair vision of India with inclusive economic mobility. I admire your firm belief that we need to stand together and we cannot be pulled apart.
I also want to recognize my dear friend, Ali Rizvi for joining us this evening.
It is truly an honor to be in the timeless city of Lucknow. This city has always been a beacon of learning. We are convened here in Lucknow as the manifestation of and living testimony to the realization of Sir Syed’s vision. We are seeds from the Aligarh family tree. We have gone around the world. In the process, we have planted new trees and helped make the world a better place.
I am here this evening because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. Those giants have been the students of AMU and alumni of AMU.
It is indeed a pleasure to be here with all of you members of the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association.
Little did I think when I was going to school at AMU over one-half a century ago that I would be an old boy. Now, when I look in the mirror every morning, I know that I am one.
Seriously, it is a privilege to be in this room with my fellow AMU alums. I feel a personal connection with all of you as we are linked by common goals, common values and vision, and common commitment. We share a common bond. That bond is one of education and empowerment that has prepared us for entrepreneurial leadership and civic engagement to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. Education, empowerment, entrepreneurial leadership, and civic engagement is what I want to talk with you about today.
Education and Empowerment
Let me begin by discussing education and empowerment and describe how they are intertwined and go hand in glove for we Old Boys from Aligarh.
Many thinks of Aligarh as being in the education business. I do as well. But I believe that it does much more than that.
Because of its religious beliefs and commitment to making India and the world a better place that was imbedded in the institution by Sir Syed and those who have followed him, Aligarh does not just produce graduates, it develops empowered individuals.
Those empowered individuals come in all shapes and forms. They are engineers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, public servants, poets, business people, artists – and the list goes on.
Aligarh is a unique institution. It equips its students to do well and to do good. In this regard, I would like to share with you what Aligarh means to and has done for me.
My Aligarh education gave me a strong knowledge base. It also instilled and infused in me a sense of values. These values continue to be my guiding light.
For me, my Aligarh education was a powerful equalizer opening the doors to opportunity. It was a gift that keeps on giving and demands that I give back in return.
My Aligarh education was empowering and enhanced my competence and self-esteem It was a bridge to the future.
My Aligarh education prepared me for the remarkable journey from India to the United States of America. I went to the U.S. in pursuit of the American Dream. And, with the help of others, I achieved it.
I am fortunate. I am uniquely blessed. My dream has come true. In large part, I owe this to my Aligarh education.
I also owe to my Aligarh education the deep understanding that there is much more to life than one’s personal success. The values that Aligarh helped shape in me include:
- a passion and love for education
- eternal optimism about one’s hope and dreams
- being collegial and candid toward all
- keeping steadfast to standards of excellence, and
- living in peace and harmony, by being tolerant and respectful of the dignity of each person
I know that these same values and others have been imprinted on you alums as well.
We are gathered here at a time when a “purpose-driven” education such as that provided by Aligarh has never been more important. Over the years, men and women from Aligarh have made significant contributions in all walks of life.
Their paths have been different but the common and transcendent bond that has united them has been a belief in and a commitment to equal justice and a shared humanity. This combination of technical expertise and moral rectitude has enabled the graduates of Aligarh to make their mark in the world and to serve as ambassadors and positive role models for others.
We are living in troubled and turbulent times. We are living in divisive and self-centered times.
Now, more than ever, it is imperative that students receive an education that prepares them to be “entrepreneurial leaders”. Leaders who understand that doing the right thing, working with others to solve problems, giving back is more important than what one accomplishes individually.
An Aligarh education meets this test and more. An Aligarh education produces graduates who are empowered individuals who are fully equipped to become entrepreneurial leaders and civically engaged.
Entrepreneurial Leadership and Civic Engagement
Just as education and empowerment are intertwined so are the concepts of entrepreneurial leadership and civic engagement. I will explain and expand on both and make the connection between them.
The Entrepreneurial Leader
Let me start with the concept of entrepreneurial leader and by defining entrepreneur. What and who is an entrepreneur? There are various definitions, the one that appeals the most to me is the entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”
I like that definition because it emphasizes “any enterprise” and extends the definition beyond just the business owner. A person can be entrepreneurial in any type of organization as long as he or she is willing to step up to the plate and take a leadership role to shape the direction of the enterprise or the portion which he or she controls.
In that regard, let me share one other definition that applies. That definition is of entrepreneurship. It was provided by Professor Howard Stevenson of the Harvard Business School almost 40 years ago. Professor Stevenson said “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” In other words, entrepreneurs are not constrained in their thinking.
Now, let me combine those two definitions into my own definition of entrepreneurial leader. Entrepreneurial leaders are dreamers who dare. They are seekers who seize the moment and take calculated risks to create the enterprises and jobs of the future.
Taking it one step further entrepreneurial leaders do the right thing. As the old American saying goes, managers do things right, leaders do the right thing.
That is true of entrepreneurial leaders in all fields – government, religion, healthcare, education – and yes, even business.
Working within that construct, in my opinion, the entrepreneurial leader is a person who recognizes that becoming an entrepreneurial leader is a journey and invests the time to make that journey in a meaningful and thoughtful manner without taking shortcuts along the way.
I firmly believe leader is a person who recognizes that leaders are made not born.
AMU prepares its students for that journey. My wife Debbie and I recognize that and it is why we funded the development of the Frank and Debbie Islam Management Complex at AMU. At the dedication of the Complex, I stated:
Our overriding motivation in supporting the Management Complex is because of the emphasis it will place on preparing the students at AMU to become entrepreneurial leaders who will engage in activities that will create jobs and opportunities for thousands of people throughout India and in other parts of the world.
My wife Debbie and I have also provided considerable financial support to build Frank and Debbie Islam Auditorium at AMU Mass Communication Department. We are here to inaugurate this auditorium. We have decided to put our names on this auditorium is because of our deep commitment to democracy and the Free News Media.
Let me say a few words as to why we continue to make investments in AMU. It is because AMU helped to make me who I am and for that I am deeply grateful. AMU shaped my story. What is best in me, I owe to AMU. I would not be the person I am today if it was not Aligarh education. Aligarh students have always been our best hope. They are dreamers and doers. My investment in them is my way of saying Thank you and keeping the hope alive and well. I strongly believe my investment will yield exponential returns.
Entrepreneurial leadership is an aspect of civic engagement. Increased civic engagement is essential from all of us who are concerned about the future of India and the world.
The best definition of civic engagement that I have seen comes from a collection of readings titled Civic Responsibility and Higher Education.
That definition states:
Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.
In my opinion, civic engagement takes five primary forms:
- Individual – being the best one can be and personally responsible for one’s actions
- Organizational – contributing to the success of the groups (e.g., business, religion, associations) to which one belongs
- Political – participating in those processes that shape the structure and nature of government
- Community – collaborating to make the locale and the world in which we live a better place
- Social – advocating for justice and equality of treatment and opportunity for all
I am involved in other charitable – or as I prefer to call them – “investment” areas in the United States, in India, and in other places around the globe. The need is so great it doesn’t matter where or how we get civically engaged. What matters is that we do so.
I know that you old boys, my fellow Aligarians and others here tonight, are already engaged. I know that I am preaching to the choir. But, as I conclude my remarks, I would like to make one request. That request is to ask you to join with me in committing to do even more and to continue to include AMU as one of your areas for engagement and philanthropy.
As I said earlier, an Aligarh education produces graduates who are empowered individuals who are fully equipped to become entrepreneurial leaders and civically engaged. Because of this we need to ensure that as many students as possible can become Aligarians and future members of the old boy’s network.
It will do well to remember that AMU gave all of you an excellent and purpose driven education and most importantly it provided you the basic building block to assume serious responsibilities and to become a passionate leader. AMU prepared you for your journey. With that thought and spirit, let us extend our hand, hope, help, and heart to AMU. When AMU succeeds, all of us succeed. India succeeds. The world succeeds.
The need is great. The stage is ours. The time is now.
It is time for all of us to join together and to build the Aligarh legacy. Let us carry the torch handed to us by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Let us work together to ensure his dream shall never die and his cause will endure.
In closing, let me leave you with one final thought from Sir Syed. Near the end of his life, he said:
“ You have reached a particular stage and remember one thing that when I undertook this task, there were criticism all around against me, life has become so difficult for me that I aged before my age, I lost my hair, my eyesight, but not my vision. My vision never dimmed, and my determination never failed, I built this institution for you and I am sure, you will carry the light of this institution far and wide, darkness will disappear from all around.”
There is still much darkness all around and that is why we, as the seeds of the Aligarh family tree, must continue to deliver on Sir Syed’s vision by keeping Aligarh’s light burning “brightly”.
It was great to be here with you old boys today. Thanks for listening to me and for your consideration of this old boy’s thoughts and request. Good luck and god bless in all that you do.