Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Friday, January 28, 2011

New Republic Day

A day I shall never forget.
New Republic Day is one of only three national holidays in India.
It is the celebration of the newly established constitution of India, the largest democracy in the world (currently 1.1 billion people population) as of its implimentation January 26, 1950.
If you are not familiar with the history of India, it would be time well spent to learn about the extraordinary abuses and indignations suffered by its peoples over the centuries at the hands of Great Britain, the Catholic Church and others they overcame, as well as an historical page mirroring the US past - turning on each other.
To think that out of that vast and tumultuous history comes a *democracy* thrills all political scholars. Can it be done? All that freedom with the most diverse population of any nation in the world? All those languages? All those points of view? All the dysfunction that preceded the establishment of the New Republic?
Tuesday evening, January 25, Michael and I arrived at the Rai School for Girls. We wanted to be there in time to enjoy the civic celebration the next day that they had been preparing for weeks. Music, dance, some speeches, awards and more. It was going to be a joy to behold.
As we ate dinner, Michael read the program for the next day's ceremonies.
"Oh, look at this. You're speaking," he said.
"I what?"
"You're speaking. See?"
There was my name - with a ten minute slot for speaking. One of three people, including the head of the school, the wonderful Rinchen Dolma and long-time Indian politician, Dr. Jaswant Singh Ji Yadav.
Me? Speak? This is one of India's most important events - I'm an American. The fact they would even think of me is flattering enough, but to give me the honour of speaking? Seriously, was this something I even deserved?
Michael also discovered that he was sitting at the table of dignitaries - with a turban! We assumed he was going to be eye candy '-).
To work. I first spoke with my closest friend at Rai, Shweta, about why this event is so vital to India's history. I did not reveal that my grades in history and government were not my highest when I went to school; I did not want her to have unnecessary concerns about her new American acquainantance saying something completely inappropriate.
I was left alone to write my speech; half an hour later Shweta and Michael returned, I read it to them, and except for on word pronounciation, it passed her whiff test!
Here is the speech I delivered the next day at the New Republic Day ceremonies:
"Happy Republic Day!
"I was at once honored and elated when asked to speak at your Republic India Day celebration.
"Coming from a young Democratic Republic still finding its way to fulfilling the promises its constitution makes, including the right to pursue happiness, I'm not in a position to tell you what to do!
"But I do have some heartfelt personal thoughts.
"First, while I've never visited your country before, I feel at home here.
"There is a sense of India, a tone set by its people and animals that says, 'Please, make yourself at home.'
"That is, I believe, a quality all democracies must have, that too many do not.
"The Rai Foundation is correct to say, 'Empower a woman, you empower a family.' That gender equality is the gateway to both world peace and a stable global economy.
"A real democracy works only if its family of citizens works together - informed, collaborating, compromising, laboring on behalf of all its family members; but especially protecting and encouraging our children.
"To fully participate here in what American constitutional authority Granville Austen called 'perhaps the greatest political venture since that oritiginated in Philadelphia in 1787.'
"UK Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden noted: 'Of all the experiments in government since the beginning of time, I believe the Indian venture into parliamentary government is the most exciting. A system of a free democracy. It is also a brave thing to do!'
"After being with you girls, women, faculty and staff here, I know that with your leadership - in politics, business, communications, fashion, social care, finances, industry, media, culture, family care and so much more - Sir Eden might amend his comment. Rather than saying it's a brave thing to do, with the ongoing graduates of the Rai Foundation - its success is a certainty!
"Every day, as you take a step forward, toward fulfilling your dreams and aspirations, you take a step forward to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of your nation ... as well as providing the inspiration for generations to come.
"I am blessed that Mr. Rai asked me to speak with you.
"I am blessed to know you.
"Humbly, I thank you again for the magnificent honor to share your significant day with me.
Michael and I were also given beautiful Indian shawls as a thank-you for our work with the girls at Rai.
Here's what the day looked like: Jai ho!

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