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April 22, 2016
New! Top Trump appointee at USAID tells colleagues not to support Biden transition — (Washington Post, November 9, 2020)
Mr. Minister, Mr. Ambassador, Vice Chancellors, Chairman of the Forman Board, other Board Members, Faculty, Alumni, Honorable Guest;
I very much appreciate the opportunity to stand here today, beginning a new chapter of my life that I never imagined would ever happen — in Pakistan, in Lahore, on the beautiful Forman Christian College campus, as a custodian and steward for an outstanding university that can and does mean so much, both for Pakistan and for the Christian community that contributes to Pakistan in so many ways.
Occasions like this often begin with gratitude to family and that is certainly the case for me.
My father Hubert was one of fourteen children; his father was a carpenter for the Central of Georgia Railway Company. My mother Bettie was one of eight children; her single mother was a seamstress who worked for the Happ’s Pants Factory.
Both of them grew up in the rural American south as neighbors and friends of each other’s siblings, separated only by Walnut Creek and a forest of pine trees. Unusually for that time, both finished high school and then attended college, the first in their families to do so. And both felt a strong call to Christian ministry and service, a call that eventually brought them to Pakistan.
Their missionary call meant that I was born at Rock Edge near Kashmir Point in Murree and spent much of my childhood in Shikarpur and Hyderabad, along with my older brother David and my young sister Nancy.
The example of my parents also inspired my own life of service, spent in large part with USAID and involving long-term postings in ten countries: Afghanistan, Belgium, Cambodia, India, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, South Africa, Yemen and Pakistan.
Indeed, my first Foreign Service assignment was back in Pakistan where I met the love of my life Fiona who is here today. She was at that time a teacher at the British School in Islamabad (in fact, one of Jim’s children was in her class!). She has also been the “secret” of any success I have enjoyed, both personally and professionally; as anyone who knows me will attest, I am a much better person because of her!
Fiona also nurtured and raised our three children in an international setting involving frequent moves — so successfully that each of our children also have the international travel bug and now live on a different continent: Iain with his wife Andrea in Chile (South America); Catriona with her husband Harley in Canada (North America); and Cameron in England (Europe). We learn a lot from each of our kids and know that they would love to be here in Pakistan with us today.
Dr. Jim Tebbe and I share a similar background, both of us having been born and raised in Pakistan. His Urdu is better than mine but I’m working on it! His leadership is also an inspiration to me as I begin to build on his example, working to strengthen Forman even as he did so much to strengthen Forman during the past decade. Jim and Beth, thank you for your service and thank you for your incredible contributions to Forman!
As Jim knows we also share certain family connections. His youngest sister Margaret was in my class at Murree Christian School. His father Bob was an inspiration to many young people of that generation including me. His mother Rowena claims credit for bringing Fiona and me together back in the 1980s. And my own dissertation and first book — on the economic impact of labor migration from Pakistan to the Middle East — was partly written in the Tebbe retirement home in Lakeland, Florida.
Now our paths have crossed with the Tebbe family once again, this time at Forman Christian College. And what a privilege it is, to now become part of the long and distinguished history of a college that has had a positive impact in literally every corner of the world.
At a personal level, I am humbled and amazed by the long list of people — “Old Formanites,” whether as Forman students, graduates or faculty — who have made Forman what it is today.
We recall some of them when we see their names inscribed on the buildings we walk past each day: Ewing, Griswold, Velte, Sinclair, Lucas, Newton, Armacost, Shirazi, Saeed Ahmed and others.
We think about others when we read about them: Nobel Prize Laureate Arthur Compton; Diplomat Jamshed Marker; Theologian William Cantwell Smith; Political Scientist Eqbal Ahmed; Poet Alamgir Hashmi; Journalist Kuldip Nayar; Anthropologist George Pfeffer, Business Magnate Baron Swaraj Paul; Group Captain Cecil Choudhry; Major Harchand Singh; Admiral Ahmad Zamar; General Noel Kokhar; Educationist Frank Khairullah; Actor Junaid Khan; Historian K.K. Aziz and many, many others.
That list includes Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Parsis and Sikhs from many ethnic and linguistic groups and from across the geographic regions that make South Asia so special. It also covers a wide range of academic disciplines, ideological inclinations and life commitments.
And this only scratches the surface: remarkably, Forman alumni include the founders of the Centers for Scientific and Industrial Research in both India and Pakistan; not to mention two presidents of Pakistan; two prime ministers of India and a long list of governors, ministers, diplomats, soldiers, lawyers, politicians, scientists, educators, health workers, journalists, entertainers and many others.
So we have plenty of outstanding examples to draw on and live up to — while also retaining a clear sense that Forman’s mission continues; a strong belief in a vision that is forward-looking; and a deep conviction that the best days of Forman still lie ahead.
We are already an impressive university — but we want to become even better.
We already have an enviable reputation in Pakistan — but we know that we have to keep proving ourselves, each and every day.
We already help connect Pakistan with the rest of the world — but we want to do even more, offering students as well as faculty opportunities to interact across an increasingly inter-connected world.
While recalling our past with pride, we remain rooted in our founding on Christian principles, conscious of our role as the only minority-led university in Pakistan.
We are also well aware of the important part we can play in demonstrating creative and alternate approaches to higher education, among other things introducing the transforming power of a broad-based liberal arts education model and demonstrating its relevancy for Pakistan, the fifth largest country in the world with a huge demand for education at all levels.
It was this recognition of Forman’s vital contributions in the field of education to Pakistan that played a key part in its denationalization hardly two decades ago. Forman’s alumni in particular supported this process, led by a distinguished group of “Old Formanites” including Pakistan’s then President as well as the Chief Minister of Punjab, Secretary of Education in Punjab, Secretary of Finance of Punjab and President and membership of the Formanite Alumni Association.
This strong support also extended to the renewal of the college as it moved to university status, accompanied by new buildings, new academic programs and an increase in enrollment. Notably, both Muslims and Christians worked together as part of this highly successful joint effort, inspired by a shared view that the renewal of Forman as a faith-based university would benefit the entire country.
Certainly, Forman should always be viewed as a source of inspiration and strength, both for Pakistan’s Christian community and for the nation of Pakistan; and, indeed, we want to contribute our measure of blessings and happiness to both.
Against that backdrop, we want to give real meaning to these well-known opening words from the Pakistan national anthem, evoked at the beginning of this ceremony:
Pak sarzamin shad baad
Kishwari-hasin shad baad
Blessed be our sacred land,
Happy be our bounteous realm
Prior to coming to Pakistan, I told American friends that I was going to Forman, adding that it was perhaps best described as “Pakistan’s version of the American University of Beirut”. Like AUB, Forman was founded by American Presbyterian missionaries in the mid nineteenth century and is also famous for its long list of distinguished alumni.
(In retrospect, perhaps I should have added an additional phrase when comparing Forman and AUB: “I look forward to the day when the American University of Beirut is best described as the Middle East’s version of Forman College”)!
Of course, we are proud of our history, featuring as it does an impressive number of alumni who have helped shape South Asia in a variety of ways.
Of course, we are proud of our campus, rightly described as one of the most beautiful in Pakistan.
Of course, we are proud of the creativity embraced by Forman, the use of technology and the ability to be flexible and responsive to the worst that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown at us so far.
Of course, we are proud of our students who come from every corner of Pakistan.
Of course, we are proud of our faculty, the research they undertake, the classes they teach, the books and articles they write, and the impact they have.
But, more than anything, we take pride in what is best described as the Forman community writ large — the students, faculty and staff (and also board members, parents and alumni), that most important and precious asset that defines Forman Christian College and makes us who and what we are.
So let me make sure to include in these remarks a shout-out to the service staff responsible for this beautiful campus — first and foremost the malis, sweepers and others who ensure that we work and study in one of the biggest, greenest and most beautiful gardens in Lahore; and also the security guards we see when we walk around the campus each and every day and who strive to protect us.
And the list goes on, covering as it does Forman’s administrative and support staff as well as its faculty and students, rightly viewed as the center of the Forman experience.
Another notable feature of Forman is that we live on a campus that “looks like Pakistan”, reflecting as it does the diversity of Pakistan in every way possible — religiously, ethnically, linguistically, geographically and in terms of a wide range of socio-economic indicators.
Our ability to understand and appreciate differences, respect each other and work together to achieve shared common goals is remarkable, providing an important example that extends both to Pakistan and beyond.
Put another way, it is hard to maintain stereotypes of other people when you spend several years working, playing and studying with them; when you see them as “real people,” sharing common joys, sorrows and experiences together.
We want Forman to always be an open place of learning, one in which multiple voices are welcomed, respected and heard.
In a very real way, our success here at Forman can offer a positive example as well as hope to the world beyond Forman.
For many of us, the life we live at Forman may be the best life we ever have.
For some, especially our students, it is a place to spread wings, sharpen intellects, develop emotional intelligence, expand critical thinking and make life-changing decisions that will determine the course of our lives as well as those close to us.
For others, especially our older faculty and administrators, Forman is the place where we can take time to reflect on the gift of years that have already been given to us, seeking to draw deeply from that well of hard-earned experience, sometimes gained as the result of deep personal pain, as we pass on what we have learned to a new generation, one that will ultimately follow and replace us.
Looking ahead, I promise to be a tireless Ambassador for Forman, representing the university to many audiences around the world, always ready and always willing to talk about Forman: anytime, anywhere and to anybody.
Indeed, I will happily affirm and commit myself to the well-known set of three imperatives set forth by Quaid-i-Azam himself who, as it happens, was sworn into high office in August 1947 by Chief Justice Mian Abdul Rashid, yet another Forman graduate: “Kaam, kaam aur kaam” – Work, work, and work”!
I am also deeply committed to supporting faculty, encouraging students, caring for support staff, learning from alumni and interacting positively with the Forman board, all of which together form the Forman community — after all, “Hum sub Forman”: We are all Forman”!
I will also do everything I can to advance Forman on the path toward becoming a university that is both “great” and “good” — great in an intellectual sense, contributing to the ocean of teaching, learning and knowledge that is the calling of universities everywhere; but good also, in this case in a moral sense, aware of the difference between wisdom and knowledge, consciously wrestling with the enduring moral issues that have been part of the human experience for centuries and which we also need to engage with and contribute to today.
Looking back, I have often quoted lines from the great Urdu poet Mir Taqi Mir on occasions such as this, involving as they do major turning points and the opening of a new chapter in my own life in ways that will also serve and benefit others:
Kahin kya jo puchey koi hum sey Mir
Jihan main tum eyay the, kya kar chaley
(“What should I say if anyone asks of me,
what did you do while you lived on this earth?”).
Our days are surely numbered by a Creator who tracks the fate of sparrows and yet also knows and calls us by name.
As Mir Taqi Mir implies, we too want to make a difference in the fleeting days that have been allotted to us, contributing with kindness to the lives of others and engaging with compassion with those whom we encounter along the way — our fellow human beings who are also part of this amazing and wonderful world which all of us call home, this spinning planet which we inhabit by God’s grace and within whose embrace we live and move and have our being.
Above all, Mir Taqi Mir challenges us in one brief phrase to live what philosophers going back to the time of Socrates have called “the examined life”.
Perhaps it is possible to do this individually and in isolation. But in my view, the examined life and the meaningful life are best worked out as part of an intentional community, with the participation and support of those around us.
And, if we are successful here at Forman, we can indeed create and sustain what Martin Luther King described as “the beloved community” — a diverse community committed to justice and equal opportunity while also centered on a deep and enduring love for one’s fellow human beings.
That too is what we strive for, both inside and outside the walls of our classrooms and both inside and outside the walls of Forman Christian College — not only as an “intellectual community” but also as a “beloved community,” known for its mercy, appreciated for its compassion and praised for the respect it shows toward others, even when we will at times hold different opinions, make different choices or disagree, sometimes strongly and passionately, with each other.
It is also a timely reminder of the Forman motto which should inspire all of us, a brief but beautifully written phrase which surely ranks among the best university mottos anywhere:
By love serve one another!
Muhabat se ekh dusrey ki kidmat karo!
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