Introductory Remarks, Round-Table with Dr. Abdul Kalam, former President of India
April 18, 2008
On the occasion of Dr. Abdul Kalam’s visit to the University of Toronto
Good morning. Welcome to our faculty, staff, students, governors, friends of U of T, and our distinguished guests, including:
- His Excellency, R.L. Narayan, High Commissioner of India
- Mr. Mehta Satish, Consul General of India
My name is David Naylor, 15th President of the University of Toronto and it is my honour and pleasure to welcome to the University of Toronto His Excellency, the Former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam.
I wish to extend the University’s sincere thanks to the Canada-India Foundation for inviting and bringing Dr. Kalam to Canada. The Canada-India Foundation was founded in 2007 to foster support for stronger bilateral relations between our two countries and is clearly doing excellent work.
Your Excellency, the hosting of today’s event is a distinct honour for the University of Toronto, Canada’s leading research university, and we are extremely delighted that you have agreed to address our community today.
We tried to select a medium-sized venue so that there would be a chance for a dialogue with the audience, while remaining appropriate to the dignity of your office.
But I should note that there was such an overwhelming interest in your address from the wider University of Toronto community, that we are holding a video webcast of this event for those many people unable to be in physical attendance …
The enthusiastic response to your visit speaks to the magnitude and intensity of interest in India shared by our students, faculty and staff
Indeed, all meaningful signs indicate that the relationship between India and the University of Toronto is thriving. We have scores of internationally respected scholars with close ties to India, dozens of programs and classes devoted to the study of India and Indian culture and a growing number of research interests in the areas of the environment, nanotechnology, biotechnology, global health, management, culture and history to mention just a few.
Furthermore, in addition to our international students, our University is home to thousands of Canadian students of Indian heritage who organize and run Indian-Canadian student groups across our three campuses, groups which are themselves made up of students from many different backgrounds
Accordingly, the University of Toronto sees a future of building on our close ties with India and its leading research and higher education institutions.
Given this vision, it now gives me great pleasure to introduce today’s eminent guest …
Dr. Kalam is the author of Vision 2020, a roadmap to transform India by the year 2020. His contributions to science and his involvement in moving forward India’s science and technology agenda, is complemented by his passion for mentorship and the development of young leaders of the next generation and a commitment to accessible education.
Dr. Kalam, we are privileged to have you with us. You are preceded by your reputation as a distinguished scientist who has had an extraordinary impact on the world’s largest democracy most notably, of course, as its President from 2002-2007.
You are an inspiration to everyone in this chamber, and we look forward to hearing your perspectives and experiences on “The Role of Science and Technology in the Development of Civil Society.”
Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome His Excellency, Dr. Abdul Kalam.
Thank you, your Excellency, on behalf of the University of Toronto, for your truly insightful address and for your willingness to share your experiences and your vision with us.
As a university, we believe strongly in the positive contributions of science and technology and we thank you for being a champion of this agenda and its impact on society.
In closing … I would like to highlight that India’s international impact is not just in science and technology, even as that impact is accelerating and deepening.
Indeed, India’s cultural, political and philosophical influence on the world continues to be profound.
As you walked through Simcoe Hall today, you will have noticed the university’s penchant for celebrating and memorializing great leaders with portraits and statuary.
However, one of the largest pieces of statuary currently on display at the University of Toronto is that of Mahatma Gandhi. It was a gift of the Government of India, presented to the University of Toronto on October 2, 1998 and is currently displayed in the library at University College.
Gandhi’s inspiration and leadership – as with the wider influence of Indian thought – remain deeply relevant today.
It seems appropriate to mention this commemoration of the ties between the University of Toronto and the Government of India, this morning, in the presence of one of India’s modern transformative and inspirational figures.
Once again, I would like to thank the Canada-India Foundation for inviting Dr. Kalam to Canada; and
Dr. Kalam, many thanks for your visit to the University of Toronto today and for your wise words. We wish you a wonderful stay in Canada.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you can imagine, our guest has a very heavy itinerary. Could I please ask you to stand and remain in your location as His Excellency departs to his next event. Thank you.
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