Fellow Aligarh alums, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman
I want to express my warm appreciation for your generous welcome. It is great to be here tonight with fellow Aligarians. I am honored to be with you today.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Razi and Abdullah Bhai for giving me an opportunity to address you tonight on the subject of “Supporting the Next Generation of the Aligarh Family Tree”
I stand before you as a son of Aligarh, a brother of each of you, and an uncle to future Aligarh students.
I will keep my remarks brief because you did not come here tonight to hear me speak but for the same reason that I did. That is to do all that we can to sponsor and support those new students who we will be welcoming into the Aligarh family – our family.
All of us owe a sense of gratitude to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). This university helped shape the lives of many generations. All of us have roles and responsibilities to shape AMU’s fate and future. Future is not an accident but it is built on planning. Remember the future is promised to those who create it. Let me paraphrase what first Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru said “let us build a noble mansion so that our children can dwell and so that they can have bright future and it is the future that beckons to us all”
A lot of things bring us together as fellow Aligarians because we are linked by common goals and bonded by shared history and shared heritage and shared faith. These bonds are stronger than the differences that too often drive us apart. For all of us Aligarh remains an inseparable and an indispensable part of our life and our story and our journey.
Because of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, our spiritual, educational and philosophical grandfather we are an exceptionally strong family. Sir Syed Ahmad khan was not only one of India’s greatest leaders in the history of India but also of the world. His accomplishments are legendary, multi-faceted and well acknowledged.
I do want to share one of my favorite quotes of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, however, because it is especially relevant as we meet to celebrate our shared heritage and linkage to Aligarh Muslim University the institution that Sir Syed founded as Muslim Anglo-Oriental College in 1875. At the founding of Aligarh Muslim University, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan said,
…from the seed which we sow today there may spring up a mighty tree whose branches, like those of banyan of the soil shall in their turn strike firm roots into the earth, and themselves send forth new and vigorous saplings; that this College may expand into a University, whose sons shall go forth throughout the length and breadth of the land to preach the gospel of free inquiry, of large-hearted toleration, and of pure morality.
We are convened here 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 and across the United States. In the process, we have planted new trees and helped make this nation and the world a better place.
We were able to do that because our Aligarh education gave us a strong knowledge base. It also instilled in us a sense of values. I would like to talk about that education and those values and as I do I would like for you to reflect on your own Aligarh experience.
For me, the 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. Because you are here tonight I trust that you feel the same way.
The Aligarh education was empowering and enhanced my competence and self-esteem It was a powerful engine for innovation and entrepreneurship that played a pivotal role in enabling me to create jobs and build prosperity for myself and my associates.
The Aligarh education was a bridge to the future – my future and your future. It is a bridge that we must help to build for others. By building that bridge, we will be creating new bridge builders in a world that is in desperate need of new economic, social and community bridges.
Let me now turn to values. 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 each of you carry these and other values that Aligarh has imprinted on you. We are gathered here this evening to do our part to continue to extend those values and expand the Aligarh family tree by contributing to support the education of the next generation of Aligarians.
We are gathered here at a time when a “purpose-driven” education such as that we received has never been more important. Over the years, men and women from Aligarh have made significant contributions in all walks of life – educators, politicians, poets, scientists, engineers.
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 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 “servant-leaders”: Leaders who understand that working with others to solve problems and that what one gives back is more important that what one accomplishes individually.
An Aligarh education meets this test and more. You know that. I know that. We know that. And, that is why we are here to ensure that as many students as possible can benefit from an Aligarh education.
We are here to plant more seeds and to grow our family tree. To grow that tree, to paraphrase Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, “so that there are more sons and daughters who are capable of going forth across the land and around the world to preach the gospel of free inquiry, of large-hearted toleration, and of pure morality.”
I think it is most appropriate that we are at this fundraiser during Ramadan – a time for thoughtful reflection and devotion and a special time for generosity and giving. This is our chance not only be grateful for all the blessings we have been allotted, but an opportunity to give to those less fortunate. Ramadan also reminds us the old saying “to whom much is given, much is expected”
In this season of Ramadan, I ask you to join me as an Aligarian by giving as you much as you can to support those future students. I ask you not to do this as an act of charity, however, but as an investment in their future and the future of the world.
Aligarh Muslim University students have always been our best hope. Our investment in these scholarships is our way of saying thank you and keeping hope alive.
My fondest hope and expectation is that in the future there will be persons whom we have made investments who will make similar investments in others. When that happens it will make our investments sustainable and an on-going source for renewing Aligarh student’s dream and aspirations
If we plant enough seeds and nourish and nurture them properly, in ten years from now, we will be at an event like this for Aligarh – except it will have many more participants. Sitting alongside us will be many new alums whom we have supported becoming Aligarh family members and they will be present to add their support for the next generation of Aligarh students. To me that is a beautiful thought.
In addition, if we plant enough seeds and continue to plant them through Aligarh, we will have helped make the world a kinder and gentler place. To me that is an even more beautiful thought.
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 are gathered here at this fundraiser to acknowledge Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s vision and to keep the light burning brightly. Let us together fulfill his vision and his mission and his dream.
Thank you for your time and your firm friendship. Thank you for listening to me and for your generous contributions to the future of Aligarh, India and the world.
God bless you.