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April 9, 2010

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The lessons of leadership

WE are living in a world with inherent paradoxes. Science and technology have been driving us to the outer space, to the innermost world of the human genome and personalized medicine, and to all that is in between - the ability to communicate in an unprecedented manner, to travel to the farthermost corners of the universe, and to enjoy culture in the broadest meaning of the word.

Yet, at the same time millions are still sacrificed on the altar of religious fundamentalism and political intolerance, whereas many others are living with no dignity in humiliating poverty, starving for a piece of bread, thirsty for a cup of clean water, and, needless to say, having no access to basic human needs - education, health and social services. Even the wonderful achievements of science and technology become at times a double-edged sword. We are polluting the atmosphere, soil and seas, consuming Earth's energy sources, destroying its forests, extinguishing the habitat of many plants and animals, and poking holes in the ozone layer. Within less than a century, modern life has changed the delicate balance built on Earth for millions of years, threatening to destroy it. It is our role to avert this process, and the question is how we do it.

I naively would like to think that the answer is hidden in one single word - leadership. Leadership that places education in all levels - from kindergarten through university and even adult education - at the very top of its priorities. Leadership that invests in education because it deeply believes that education will not only generate the next generation of scientists, physicians, engineers, writers, musicians, philosophers, architects and artists, but also that it has the wonderful ability to dissipate fundamentalism, to build mutual respect and understanding among people and nations, and to convert religions into a platform of peaceful dialogue among people. Leadership that allows people to be free, enabling them to fly on the wings of their imagination. Leadership that can see beyond the borders of a nation and understands that the world's problems cannot be solved without international cooperation: a river or atmosphere contaminated in one country will contaminate the water resources people drink from and the air they breathe in its neighboring countries. Leadership that knows that human beings are not the only living organisms on Earth and that we must be considerate of our environment. Leadership that has learned the lesson of history that bloodshed never ends and only leads to more bloodshed. The solution to conflicts should be found at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield. Leadership that replaces ideology with a national ethos, that defines targets and gives its people a purpose, making them want to live in their own countries, preserving their history and culture, and at the same time making them prosper.

World Expo 2010 epitomizes all these hopes and dreams, bringing them ever closer to reality. Let us wish it the best of success as it is our success.

(This message has been abridged to suit space limitations.)


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