Frank F. Islam
The American Bazaar Philanthropy Award Dinner
Distinguished Guests, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for that kind introduction!
It is truly a pleasure and honor for me to be here at the third annual Philanthropy Dialogue and Dinner. When I look around, I see a number of familiar faces in the hall. So I believe many who are here today have attended previous editions of the American Bazaar Dialogue and Dinner.
I am delighted to be here with you this evening because I feel a personal connection. We are linked by a common cause and a common goal and by a common vison and a common commitment
As philanthropists, most of us live in our own cocoons. We don’t often talk to other philanthropists and organizations to find out what they are doing, what kind of impact and influence their work is having, what could be done together to complement the works of each other, and what are the best practices in the field that each of us could implement within our own organizations.
Thanks to the American Bazaar for making an attempt to take us out of what I call our “cocooned existence” and bring under one roof here, at least, one day every year to talk about various aspects of sharing and giving and exchange ideas.
My wife, Debbie, and I are proud to be associated with this commendable initiative. This is the third year we are supporting the Philanthropy Dialogue. I am pleased to see that some of the other organizations that were part of the Dialogue in the previous editions, such as the AIF, Pratham and Sehgal Foundation, are on board this year as well. Once again, I applaud the great work all of you are doing to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people both in India and the United States.
Let me say a few words on why you should be engaged in philanthropic activities. I strongly believe it should be our responsibility to give back because we should be guided by the words of President Kennedy who said: To whom much is given much is expected. It is much more rewarding to give than to make money. We should not look at our contribution to other individuals and organizations as charity but rather as an investment. I firmly believe that in the future there will be persons in whom you have made investments who will make similar investment in others. When that happens it will make our investments sustainable. Our criteria for investing should be to enable and empower people by giving them a helping hand and a hand up rather than a hand out.
My job today is to deliver a few remarks in honor of Dr. Suri Sehgal, the honoree today, before handing over the philanthropy award. I was the recipient of the inaugural American Bazaar Philanthropy Award last year. Welcome to the club, Dr. Sehgal!
Those of you who were in the inaugural Philanthropy Dialogue might recall that I had spoken about the need for our community to give more. As I said back then, even though the Indian American community is the most affluent ethnic group in the United States, we are punching way below our weight, when it comes to philanthropy.
I have no doubt that we could give more. Those in this room that are not yet involved into philanthropy don’t need to look farther for inspiration. Dr. Sehgal has committed most of his wealth to philanthropy.
I have never met Dr. Sehgal until today. But I have followed the stellar work the Sehgal Foundation is doing in India in the area of rural development.
Dr. Sehgal’s stellar bio include a PhD from Harvard, building a remarkable career in the United States as a business executive, rising through the ranks of corporate America to become the second highest paid employee of a Fortune 100 company, and setting up a very successful business. In my opinion, perhaps his biggest contribution and greatest legacy may be his philanthropic work.
It is often said that entrepreneurship is about solving problems. The same is true of philanthropy as well. What the SM Sehgal Foundation is doing in India is identifying some of the most pressing problems the country is facing and coming up with solutions for them. The Sehgal Foundation is trying to solve in its own small way one of the greatest challenges India is facing at the moment: the disempowerment of rural India.
Sustainable, empowered and prosperous villages were the dream of Mahatma Gandhi. Sadly, seven decades after the Independence, Indian villages are in much worse shape today. As the village economies collapsed, millions of villagers have been migrating to cities, which don’t have the infrastructure to handle the tens of thousands of villagers that are arriving daily.
Which is why work of SM Sehgal Foundation in 500 odd Indian villages is so critical. The Foundation is committed to empowering rural India through good rural governance and by strengthening rural economies.
All of us owe Dr. Sehgal a deep sense of gratitude for his philanthropic engagement and his service to the humanity. He is the source of strength and he inspires all of us not only to do well but also to do good. Let us stand shoulder to shoulder with him for his vison and his values. Let us give him a big round of applause. I wish you all the best
God bless you all!