Washington: Good evening. My name is Frank Islam. On behalf of my wife Debbie and our co-host, Sam Pitroda, it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome all of you to this reception and dinner with Rahul Gandhi.
I am sure most of you have followed Mr. Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which began last September and concluded in January. I am certain that you all are here tonight because you understand and support the need for that walk.
Let me take the perspective on the walk one step further though and say that I believe we are also coming together this evening as concerned individuals to help “Unite and Renew Democracies.”
I say this because the Republic of India and the United States of America are the two largest democracies in the world. I think you will agree with me that over the past decade or so both of our great democracies have become more divided and exclusive rather than united and inclusive.
I believe you will also agree that how our two great democracies evolve will determine the fate and future not only of India and the U.S. but of democracies around the world. Will they become more democratic or more autocratic? Ensuring that they become more democratic is the challenge and opportunity at this time and for this century.
At the outset therefore, I want to thank each of you for being here, for the investment you are making in time, and for your commitment to the future of democracy in India, the United States; and world-wide.
That said, let me now share a few thoughts about Mr. Gandhi and then introduce our co-host, Sam Pitroda.
Here are three thoughts on leader Rahul Gandhi.
First, congratulations to you Mr. Gandhi and the Congress Party for the overwhelming victory over the BJP in the recent elections in the state of Karnataka. The margin there is an indication that electoral politics in India may be starting to turn around as we move into the 2024 national elections.
Second, the Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kerala to Kashmir, which took nearly 150 days, and covered 2,500 miles through some difficult terrain and weather, took considerable discipline and determination. Most importantly, however, that walk was a labor of love – a love of India and its people, a love of what India has been and what it can become.
Third, the walk inspired tens of millions of Indian people to join and express their concerns, commitments, hopes, dreams and aspirations. That is Mr. Gandhi’s vision for India– one India and one people united in the pursuit of equity, opportunity and inclusion – an India where all voices matter and are heard and not just those of a chosen few.
Those are my opening comments on Rahul Gandhi. My co-host Sam Pitroda will have more to say about him and then you will hear from leader Gandhi himself.
Let me now introduce my friend Sam Pitroda to you. I must say that… I think that because of who he is and what he has accomplished that he is the perfect person to introduce Mr. Gandhi.
Most of you are probably familiar with Sam as the telecommunications genius, inventor, and entrepreneur who is credited with founding the telecom industry in India in the 1980’s. Since then, he has worked tirelessly for more than four decades as a leader in helping to bridge the digital divide globally.
You probably are aware of the role that Sam played as an advisor to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, father of our honorable guest today, leading missions to revolutionize the use of technology to upgrade life in a number of areas throughout India and founding and serving as the first chairman of India’s Telecomm Commission.
What you may not be aware of is the critical roles that Sam has played in making the Indian democracy a better and fairer one for all of its citizens regardless of caste, color, or creed.
From 2005-2009, he headed India’s National Knowledge Commission which put together a blueprint for the reform of India’s knowledge-related institutions and infrastructure. In 2013, he was the advisor to the Prime Minister on the Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation. In that role, he was instrumental in putting together plans to improve the nation’s performance in key sectors such as education, health and governance and an action plan for a decade of innovation to make India competitive globally.
This is why I say that Sam Pitroda is the perfect person to introduce Rahul Gandhi. Like Mr. Gandhi, he not only has talked the talk, he has also walked the walk to Unite India and to unite and renew democracies around the globe.
We are blessed to have him here with us tonight. My wife Debbie and I are honored to be co-hosting this dinner and reception with him.
At this time, let me call Sam to say few words.
Sam the podium is yours.