Of Virtues and Visions

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, president of India from 2002 to 2007, spoke at Tulane University on Monday 26th October 2009. Dr. Kalam addressed a large audience comprising of the sizable Indian student body at Tulane, and the Indian students who came from a few other universities around New Orleans. Many guests from the Indian diaspora and various other nationalities also were present at the event.

Dr. Kalam spoke about a few of his life experiences, most notably about the importance of learning and the virtues of leadership. He quoted an experience from his initial job as the Project Director for a satellite launch vehicle mission, and told the audience how his boss saved him from the criticism of the mission’s failure, by taking the onus upon himself. He then told how he and his team were given the full credit for the subsequent successful launch. Dr. Kalam also spoke about his “India-2020”, a vision he holds for India and how he wants to see India as an economic superpower by the year 2020. His speech was laced with humor and held the audience enthralled with his wealth of experience. He fielded a few questions from the enthusiastic audience. He received a roaring applause when he responded to a question about the perceived duties of the Indian Diaspora by saying, “You should do your best for the country where you live and bring back your experiences to India. We need experiences and not money”. At the end of the speech, Dr. Kalam made the audience repeat after him a pledge about working hard and being sincere – his trademark way of making his audience realize their duties towards this world. Dr. Kalam graciously posed for photographs and signed autographs for his gleaming fans.

The multifaceted Dr. Kalam is a rocket scientist, a poet, a teacher, a scholar and a true visionary. He worked as an aeronautical engineer before he was the president of India. He was instrumental in India’s missile program and was known as Missile Man of India. He was also the chief scientific advisor of the government of India. While he was the president, he traveled widely across India, and met many students and the poor, that earned him the name People’s President.

The Indian Association of Tulane University (IATU) facilitated Dr. Kalam’s visit to Tulane, and his visit was a part of the ongoing speaker series of Tulane University.

Vamsi Illindala, MBA 2010