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                            Honorary Degree Ceremony

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Followed by Public Lecture – Varner Vitality Lecture Series
Oakland University, Rochester
17 September 2009

“Universities are partners in the National Development”.

The knowledge is powered by Technology and Innovation


I am delighted to be in this beautiful environment to receive the Honorary Degree and to deliver a Public Lecture – Varner Vitality lecture at Oakland University, Rochester. I am very happy that I am giving the lecture in honour of the visionary Dr. Durwood (Woody) Varner, the First Chancellor of this reputed University. I consider it as a great honour for being conferred with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by the Oakland University of Rochester. I thank the board of Trusties of the OakLand University for awarding this Degree to me. The role and mission of Oakland University emphasizes four essential ingredients for the direction of the university: excellence and relevant instruction; high-quality basic and applied research and scholarship; responsive and effective public and community service; and a comprehensive schedule of student development activities.

Beautiful Meadow Brook

Today after noon, I have visited the “Beautiful Meadow Brook” – a Matilda Rasuch Dodge Wilson heritage home along with Dr. Garry Russi, President of Oak Land University. I was really impressed with the beautiful heritage building with the memories of John Frances Dodge, Wilson’s study and the memories of Matilda about her son Daniel’s and the art theatre and other beautiful museum. What a beautiful art, culture and the ultimately the architecture beauty in reality. What astonished me was a tradition of the family, not because of its richness, but because of their vision and benevolent attitude of towards education which created the University with their attitude of giving. When I see the vision of “What can I give?” from the minds of Matilda, resulted into the Oak Land university of today, I am reminded of the advice given to Mahatma Gandhiji by his mother at his age of 9. She says, What can I give? : Save or better someone life

"Son, in your entire life time, if you can save or better someone's life, your birth as a human being and your life is a success. You have the blessing of the Almighty God".

This advice has made a deep impact in the mind of Gandhiji, which made him to work for the humanity throughout his life and he has given the ahimsa Dharma and non-violence to the world.

With this background, today my mind traverses to my working as a Professor of Societal Transformation in the reputed Anna University in Chennai, Tamilnadu, Southern part of India. The Academic environment and the energy of the youth inspired me to consolidate my experiences from my professional career. That enabled me to evolve specific societal missions with application of science and technology.

When I am in the Oakland University campus, I realize the State Michigan is blessed with lakes and lakes, floats in the water and is endowed with the World’s most famous automobile industries. Above all, Oakland University is known for its directed research which contributes to the economic development of the state. Thus, the University is indeed enriching the State of Michigan. My hearty congratulations for the Faculty, Staff, Researchers, Students partners of the University and the distinguished invitees. With this dynamic environment of the University, I was thinking what thoughts I can share with you. The topic I have selected is “Universities are partners in the National Development”.

At this stage I would like to recall a poem composed by me and read in our Parliament (India) in 2005:

The Vision

I climbed and climbed
Where is the peak, my Lord?

I ploughed and ploughed,
Where is the knowledge treasure, my Lord?

I sailed and sailed,
Where is the island of peace, my Lord?

Almighty, bless my nation
With vision and sweat resulting into happiness.

This poem reflects the importance of the vision in thinking and action for every member of the society particularly to the leaders in politics, academy and industry, youth and the people.

Ignited minds of the youth

Friends, I attended two international conferences of youth represented by 100 to 150 nations, one at Liverpool, UK and another at Abu Dhabi, UAE. While preparing for your address, I was asking myself what messages I got from the global youth. The youth, of course have a fervent hope to live in a peaceful, happy, prosperous and safe world with full of opportunities. But I can see the anxiety among the youth how to handle a world devastated by wars between people to people and between nation to nation due to ideological and personal interest. Peace is essential for sustainable development of the globe. Every responsible global citizen should stand by the three billion youth of the world who are restless with the hope “that youth can do it, nations can do it and the world can do it”, for making prosperity and peace of the world a reality. As you all friends you know, “Ignited minds of the youth are the most powerful resources on the earth, above the earth and under the earth”.

Research for Human progress

Science, technology and humanities bring diverse groups across the world and challenge them to take up new avenues of research for finding suitable solutions in the evolving times of the world. The technology has expanded physical travel and connectivity to a large extent, beyond any realm of imagination in the past centuries. This kind of non linear growth of technology and its improvement of quality of human life across the world is in the best interest of the entire humanity. Take any issue, be it energy and environment, understanding the atmosphere, exploration of outer space, increasing outreach of science, equitable distribution of prosperity and wealth, dealing with deadly diseases, weaning people away from drugs, or the family ties. In every one of them, I feel research has to the thrust area; they all require the best of minds from many parts of the world, working together.

Technology without Borders

In the 20th century, most nations understood that science and technology was the best vehicle for economic upliftment. However, the problems that S&T was used to solve have been primarily local and customized to their needs. Today, the problems faced by nations are no longer, a concern of them alone. Humanity is devoting more and more attention to climate change, energy, water, disease, economic turbulence and terrorism etc., which are all of concern to the entire world and the solutions for which are beyond any individual nations or group of nations.

If S&T has to provide upliftment of our humanity, if the research and development are in areas with porous borders between them and if the problems of the world know not of geographical borders, the education that becomes the foundation of all our science and technology, research and development also must of necessity become borderless.

When I was traveling in an Aircraft in the United States, I was told that much of its controls were software driven and most probably developed in India. When I presented my credit card, I was told that it was being processed in the backend server located in Mauritius. When I walked into IT software Development Company in Bangalore, I was fascinated to find that it truly presented a multicultural environment. A software developer from China working under a project leader from Korea working with a software engineer from India and a hardware architect from the US and the communication expert from Germany were all working together to solve the banking problem in Australia. When I see all of them working together like one family forgetting about the culture from which they came or the language that they speak, I feel that the only hope for such borderless interaction to continue is to inculcate the spirit of borderlessness in our education also.

In this borderless environment, let me present convergence of technologies.

Convergence of Technologies

The information technology and communication technology have already converged leading to Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Information Technology combined with bio-technology has led to bio-informatics. Now, Nano-technology is knocking at our doors. It is the field of the future that will replace micro-electronics and many fields with tremendous application potential in the areas of medicine, electronics and material science. When Nano-technology and ICT meet, integrated silicon electronics and photonics are born and it can be said that material convergence will be emerging. With material convergence and biotechnology linked, a new science called Intelligent Bioscience will be born which would lead to a disease free, happy and more intelligent human habitat with longevity and high human capabilities. Convergence of bio-nano-info technologies can lead to the development of nano robots. Nano robots, when they are injected into a patient, my expert friends say, will diagnose and deliver the treatment exclusively in the affected area and then the nano-robot gets digested as it is a DNA based product.

Convergence of ICT, aerospace and Nano technologies will emerge and revolutionize the aerospace industry. This technological convergence will enable building of cost effective low weight, high payload, and highly reliable aerospace systems which can be used for inter-planetary transportation.

It is estimated that in the life of a scientist or an engineer, he or she will come across and work in at least seven new areas which are born out of convergence of multiple science and technologies. Such convergence has made the border between areas completely porous.

Tremendous progress has been achieved throughout the globe and still there are many important problems which impede progress. The world has to face the challenge of sustainability with serious problems of power, water and environment. The root causes of terrorism have to be understood and alleviated. The leaders have to think globally and act locally. There has to be a global vision of human progress and the leaders have to work towards that.

1. A world, where all citizens will have equitable distribution of clean and affordable energy.

2. A world where all citizens even in the remotest parts will have electronic connectivity and knowledge connectivity

3. A world where all citizens will have safe drinking water.

4. Planet earth will be transformed to prosperity without poverty, peaceful without fear of war and a happy place to live for the whole humanity using space technologies as one of the prime movers.

In order to achieve the global vision, we need to have a mechanism to realize the same. Hence, during my visits to various countries, I have proposed to establish the “World Knowledge Platform”, which will integrate the core competencies of the partner countries to develop knowledge products, systems and solutions towards resolving the challenges of the world. Certainly university has a role in becoming a partner in the national development missions through world knowledge platform.

World Knowledge Platform

This World Knowledge platform will enable joint design, development, cost effective production and marketing of the knowledge products in various domains based on the core competence of partner nations to international market. Initially, the mission of World Knowledge Platform is to connect and network the R&D Institutions, Universities and Industries using fiber broadband from the partner nations on selected R&D Missions. Missions of World Knowledge Platform: The convergence of Bio, Nano and IT is expected to touch every area of concern to the humanity. The “World Knowledge Platform” will take up the missions, in some of the areas discussed further, which are of utmost urgency to all of us to make our world a safe, sustainable, peaceful and prosperous place to live:

1. Energy Independence : the transformation of global energy dependence on fossil fuel like oil, gas, coal has to shift towards renewable energy sources like hydro-power, solar power, wind power and nuclear power. This has to happen to protect the planet earth from environmental pollution and to meet the situation of non availability of fossil fuel in few decades and above all to realize economic freedom from high and fluctuating cost of crude per barrel.

2. Water: Desalination of sea water using solar energy, channelization, networking of rivers, cost effective safe drinking water.

3. Healthcare: Diagnosis, drug delivery system, development and production of vaccines for HIV/TB, malaria and cardiac diseases. The permanent solution has to be found by worldwide research through life style change for preventing occurrence and curing diabetic diseases.

4. Knowledge products: Hardware, Software and Networking and Storage Products including handheld micro and nano electronic devices.

5. Transportation systems: Fossil fuel free biofuel based transportation systems using biofuel like ethanol and bio-diesel. Also it is essential to develop transportation system to suit 100% biofuel.

6. Disaster Prediction and Management: Earthquake forecasting, assessing in advance the quantum of rain for particular cloud condition.

7. Capacity Building: Quality human resource development for all the above areas including the development of personnel with world class skills.

8. Sustainable development: Strategies, policies, education system and modeling.

Number of academic, research and production institutions from many countries can join in the World Knowledge Platform as partners in the above-mentioned areas with the public, private partnership. In short, the Knowledge Platform would be launch pad for many innovations that are waiting to be unearthed only by the combined power of multiple institutions from multiple countries.

Conclusion The human ingenuity has the power to combat new challenges and make the best use of the opportunities for ensuring peace and development. Friends, let me share with you a beautiful experience when I visited Greece in April 2007. I was negotiating and climbing towards Acropolis mountain top in Athens and came across a group of 150 Greek students. They threw a spontaneous smile on me; the teachers came forward and introduced the students. They said, they were very happy to see the Indian president and that the children would like to hear from him few words. My mind at that time was thinking about the great personalities, the land of Greece had given to the world: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The words of Plato were ringing in my mind when I saw the young students. Plato brings out that “Our aim in founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness of any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole”, 2400 years ago.

Similarly, around the same period Tamil poet Saint Thiruvalluvar said,

பிணியின்மை செல்வம் விளைவின்பம் ஏமம்
அணியென்ப நாட்டிற்கிவ் வைந்து.

That is, "the important elements that constitute a nation are: being disease free; high earning capacity; high productivity; harmonious living and strong defence". We have to find how we can provide all these elements to the citizens of every nation on an equitable basis for happiness for all. With these thoughts, I made up my mind, of what to say to the students and the youth of Greece. I slowly repeated line by line, a hymn which I normally hear in Indian spiritual centers. Can you all repeat with me.


Where there is righteousness in the heart
There is beauty in the character.

When there is beauty in the character,
there is harmony in the home.

When there is harmony in the home.
There is an order in the nation.

When there is order in the nation,
There is peace in the world.

When the students and the youth repeated with me, the tourists around at the Acropolis also repeated and there was all round ovations. Then I realized how people from multiple nations, young and experienced were influenced by the thought of righteousness in the heart irrespective of their nationality. You can see how the righteousness in the heart generates beauty in the character in the human beings and beauty in the character leads to harmony in the home. Harmony in the home in an integrated way generates order in the nation. Of course the order in the nation finally blossoms peace in the world. The righteousness in the heart is the starting point for great individual, great family and great nation and ultimately great planet earth.

Now the question is: How do we inculcate the righteousness in the heart. In my opinion, there are three sources which can build a youth with righteousness in the heart. One is mother, second is father and the third and the most important is the teacher, particularly primary school teacher. Also to provide righteousness in the heart to the young minds, we should have an environment of great education and a spiritual way of life and spiritual environment.

My best wishes to all the members of Oakland University, Rochester success in the mission of creating and developing a borderless world. My greetings to all.

May God Bless you.

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