In a country where the role models run the gamut from Bollywood to Cricket, here came a person who truly became a role model to :
• Young and old
• Hindu and Muslim
• Scientist and a Pan-wallah
• City dweller and village dweller
President Kalam has shown that there are more role models in India and we need to look at different people for this. His signature hairstyle and how he connected to the young were remarkable— Kalam would easily qualify to be the coolest nerd but he chose to be different. He was the coolest.
A highly successful scientist and a naturally gifted speaker and intellectual, Dr. APJ Kalam was popular as the Missile man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technologies. Serving as the 11th President of India (2002-2007) and also a receiver of the Bharat Ratna award, Dr. Kalam never failed to inspire people to overcome obstacles and suceed. While a personal follower of Islam, Dr Kalam showed great respect for all religions and could be spotted launching books on Hinduism, visiting saints, babas and fakirs from different faiths. In his words, “For great men, religion is a way of making friends; small people make religion a fighting tool.” His life was a blend of humility, simplicity, knowledge and greatness even as he proudly spoke about India’s rich culture on his visits around the world.
His books will continue to inspire the young and old alike owing to the simplicity in his writing. This simplicity probably is what connected him with one and all—making him a role model, be it in technical, organizational or political roles.
He launched his mission for the youth of the nation in 2011 known as “What Can I Give Movement” with a theme to defeat corruption in India. Considered a role model for the young in India, I also find people from different ages, professions and ethnicities to consider him a role model for different roles—no wonder he was called the ‘People’s President”. His positivity, constructivity and simple actions along with his vision for India, it’s progress and sovereignity as a world power make him an ideal role model for generations to come.
Kalam believed that the World Space Vision 2050 has the power to enhance the quality of human life, inspire the spirit of space exploration, expand the horizons of knowledge and ensure space security for all nations of the world. Such a unified approach, according to him, would enable the world to see a quantum jump in the progress in space science and technology for the benefit of all the nations of the world.
Filling the nation with a void with his death on July 27th (2015), Dr. Kalam was one of the few living legends who paved way for new ideas for the young, encouraging entrepreneurship, education, and motivating India’s youth to achieve their dreams with hard-work and perseverance. Do you think India needs similar role models? Who are your other role models?
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Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.