Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in Seattle

26 04 2009
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Bharat Ratna Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the former President of Republic of India has honored Seattlains with his presence and inspiring speeches during the past few days. [Note: I’m sure Dr. Kalam’s engagements in Seattle extend beyond the ones I mention in this post, but these are all I’m aware of at the moment.]

He talked exclusively to the Microsoft internal employees on Thursday(4/23) on ‘Transforming Software Powerhouse to Knowledge Systems Powerhouse’

And Friday (4/24) evening, he spoke at University of Washington on ‘Dynamics of Unity of Nations’.

And there was this dinner banquet in his honor at Fairmont Olympic Hotel, hosted by TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Saturday (4/25) evening.

I was fortunate enough to make it to his talk yesterday (4/25) afternoon at Museum of History and Industry, organized by Indian Association of Western Washington and Washington Telugu Samithi.

Dr.Kalam was felicitated by a distinguished personality: Prof. Ramanathan, Former Chairman of Accounting University of Washington Business School.

The People’s President (even though he is a former president, the organizers kept addressing Dr. Kalam as ‘Your Highness/President’, out of reverence) started his speech by asking the audience to repeat after him the following:

Learning leads to Creativity

Creativity leads to Thinking

Thinking leads to Knowledge

Knowledge makes you Great!

While he was supposed to talk on ‘Evolution of Enlightened Societies for World Peace’, he chose to begin with discussing Leadership qualities. He emphasized the importance of a leader to be a visionary and explained with the help of an anecdote about Mr.Satish Dhawan, how a leader is supposed to take responsibility for failure and give credit for success to the team. Watch and hear him talk about the leadership qualities here:

He concluded the above topic with this:

Dr.Kalam then asked the audience to repeat after him, about courage and integrity (as a part of an oath). Watch it here:

(I could only capture a few snippets of his speech on my camera, the best of which I’ve presented here.)

He then moved on and talked about the book he has read recently, The Empires of the Mind by Denis Waitley. The author seemed to convey the following through his book:

“What worked today, won’t work tomorrow.”

He quoted the main points from that book and said that he has analyzed them and didn’t agree with the author on a few points.

There were about 10 points, but I remember only a few. They go something like this:

Yesterday, natural resources defined power

Today, Knowledge is power (he gave 100 marks to someone from the audience who prompted “Knowledge”)

Yesterday, shareholders came first

Today, customers are first

Yesterday, employees took orders

Today, teams make decisions

Yesterday – value was extra

Today – value is everything

Yesterday – everyone was a competitor

Today – everyone is a customer

He highly recommended the book and urged us to read and analyze it without taking the author’s or his (Kalam’s) analysis as final. He even asked us to prepare a paper of our own analysis, and send it to him (if it’s good).

When someone from the audience requested him to repeat the name of the author, Dr. Kalam replied jocularly that one can search for the book in amazon.com to get the complete details, to the laughter of the auditorium. (He nonetheless, spelled out the author’s name for the enquirer’s benefit.)

I was both surprised by his sense of humor and awed by his so down to earth attitude.

He also recommended a few more books for us:

  • Lights from many Lamps – Lillian Eichler Watson (which he said has been his guide for 50 years)
  • Everyday Greatness – Stephen R covey
  • One Tamil book written 2200 years ago; Sorry I didn’t get either its title or the author
  • My Experiments with Truth – M K Gandhi

He then advised us to save or better someone’s life.

He concluded by asking the audience again to repeat after him – the oath he devised especially for IAWW Youth Group.

His talk was really inspiring, awakening and enlightening. It was also unbelievably enjoyable.

At the end, while it was decided that there would be no Q&A session, Dr. Kalam invited the audience to e-mail him their questions to apj@abdulkalam.com and promised a reply within 24 hours.

This is all I could recollect (and reproduce) about my positively thrilling experience today…

The evening after the event, when I visited Dr. Kalam’s personal website, I was surprised to see the talk already written down on it. On closer inspection, it seemed like what he originally planned to deliver and probably was published well before the commencement of the event. The actual speech only differed from this version to a little extent. Read it here.

A few pics from yesterday’s event:




2 responses

29 04 2009


That was very nice of you to blog the experience with Dr. Kalam’s speech. It was thoughtful to get some quick shoots too.

Awaiting more blogs…

18 05 2009

I’ve captured a few more snippets of his speech, but I only included the best of them in the post. It was a really wonderful experience for me.

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