Florida: Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao spoke to students of the University of Florida.
Below is the complete text of her Commencement Address.
It is not usual for me to deliver a commencement address and I am deeply honoured by this opportunity to address all of you who stand on the threshold of your beautiful tomorrows.
I am aware that the University of Florida is one of the premier seats of learning in the United States, committed to academic excellence, contributing to the socio-economic development of your state and preparing students like you to be global citizens for an increasingly inter-connected world.
You are ready to face the challenges of the 21st Century with the learning and knowledge you have acquired within these portals.
I am happy to learn that more than 1100 Indian students are currently enrolled at the University of Florida. Through its linkages and partnership with several Indian academic institutions, the University is performing yeoman service in the promotion of greater understanding between the Indian and American peoples.
For example, only recently, a University of Florida-led research team has been selected to participate in a five-year, $125 million project on the development of clean energy technologies involving research institutions, universities and industry from India and the United States.
Commencement ceremonies always induce a sense of nostalgia in us older people. On this day, I cannot but help thinking of my own student days and the world of the early seventies when I stood on the threshold of my tomorrow.
At that time, my country, India, was a very young nation, having marked twenty five years of its independence - years during which our Republic began its journey on the path of economic development and building a just and equitable social order after a dark period of colonial rule and exploitation.
We did not live online, and did not know what a virtual world meant! You are digital natives, we, of an older generation are immigrants in a digital world. The universe of the digital and the internet was barely imagined when we were in university. But the world was already shrinking. In real time, through the radio set, the movies, through newspapers, and magazines which we accessed avidly in our thirst for information.
In what was then a small town in India, where I studied for my Master's degree in English Literature, I was witness to the tragedy of the war in Vietnam, the creation of Bangladesh, the historic visit that President Nixon made to China and the menacing brinkmanship of the Cold War.
The world was certainly becoming much smaller than it had ever been in time past. My grandparents, both maternal and paternal, had spent their entire lives in the southern Indian state of Kerala. My parents and their siblings made India their stage, living outside their home state. It was left to my generation to cross the seven seas and discover the world.
Our dreams created our own cartography, reaching across borders we saw on maps. We sought enlightenment, and we sought empowerment. I became a diplomat at the age of 22, in my very own quest for enlightenment and empowerment. We were attracted to careers in public service.
We wanted to make a difference. Women in my country, those of whom had access to the opportunities provided by education and supportive family environments, were therefore, beginning to take up careers in public service.
I came to the profession of diplomacy because of this desire to make whatever contribution I could to my country's progress and security, my curiosity about the world around me, my love of history, both ancient and current, and the manner in which I was impacted while growing up, by the spirit of a newly independent India, and what she has stood for.
I was also inspired by the tradition of women like Gargi, an extraordinary Indian woman sage, who was said to have challenged her seniors with disturbing questions on the nature of the soul or atman. It was an example that constantly inspired me to challenge any obstacle that confronted me on my journey, both professional and personal, with perseverance and determination.
Diplomacy, the field to which I belong, was for long the exclusive preserve of men and this was very evident when I became a Foreign Service officer in 1973. The very thought that statecraft, the conduct of relations between sovereign countries, could involve women, was new, even up to a few decades ago.
For complete speech, click on the link.