Friday, November 11, 2005

Is the Right falling apart?

Both the Republican party in the United States and the BJP in India have been the right-wing flag bearers in their respective political arenas. Both are struggling today.

The Republican party has lost its ideological and, most definitely, its legislative way. The social conservatives, who were virtually unopposed by socially moderate fiscal conservatives in the last Presidential election, seem to have disproportionate attention of lawmakers. Everybody in a democracy has their sets of issues that energizes them but here in America the last few years have seen a surge of right-leaning social activists become louder and more influential. That influence has extracted a broader political cost for the Republican party as a whole, who people now see alienated from the real issues of energy and the economy at large. Even their stance and strategy on terrorism is being called into question. More so because the strategy incorporated a war in Iraq. With both the House and Senate leaders under investigations (prosecutorial and SEC respectively) the structural and ideological cohesion the GOP enjoyed is almost gone.

In India, the BJP has little to show in terms of any policy inputs or even opposition besides some politically necessary pronouncements from time to time to let the public know that they are politically alive. They have been marred by serious infighting that erupted from the most unexpected of sources - a controversy over Jinnah, that shook the ideological foundation of the BJP and its parent organization the RSS. The only other times the BJP has been in the news has been when they have targeted cabinet members like Laloo Prasad Yadav and Natwar Singh for their alleged roles in corruption scandals. Nothing positive yet to come from the BJP as in any policy initiatives that one would expect given their dismal faring in the last general election. The fact that the masses rejected them hasn't yet forced them to review or even suggest any economic gameplan that is more inclusive than what the ill-conceived "India Shining" campaign banked on.

Extreme ideas have a limited lifespan. Their irrelevance to real issues that people face on a daily basis once revealed takes down the politicians who mouthed them. And as these ideologues slip into oblivion a more moderate and meaningful political entity emerges. Hopefully. It seems we're in that transition period both here and in India. Waiting for a real political alternative to emerge.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

No place for violence!

The serial bomb blasts have hit too close to home for me. A market that I regularly frequented saw a blast that killed more than 30 innocent people. I have always failed to understand what purpose the killing of innocents ever achieves. Such violence, in the name of any cause, must be condemned as forcefully as possible. There is simply no room for such violence in the civilized world.

We have to wait for the facts to come out before we can cast definitive blame. Preliminary reports suggest Kashmiri separatists. Young India has always supported a peaceful dialogue on Kashmir that places the Kashmiri people front and center. We have criticized military excesses and categorically denounced cross-border terrorism that in the name of freedom targeted civilians. We pledge to continue to fight for the displaced Kashmiri Hindus as we will continue to persist in our efforts to bring peace to the residents of the Valley who have lived in the shadow of violence for the last 16 years. But under NO circumstance will we tolerate murder. None.

Fundamentalism is the greatest threat to humanity. It must be vigorously challenged. And Young India will continue to do so.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Historic Legislation for India's Poor

With the passage of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in the recently concluded Monsoon session of the parliament India has moved a step closer to its enshrined ideals.

72% of India's population lives in its villages. Upwards of 65% of the population lives off the land. Land ceiling laws have been poorly implemented thus most of the rural poor either have small landholdings enough only for subsistence or have none at all. To compound the problems with this reality agricultural employment is not all year round. Such conditions create almost starvation circumstances for the landless. This is the backdrop from which this Bill emerged.

Following are some of the highlights of the Bill -

* The Bill guarantees 100 days of employment to one person per household at Rs.60/day ($1.40/day).
* The scheme will be implemented in 200 of the poorest districts (out of 600 total)
* The whole country will be covered in 5 years.
* The Panchayats (village self-governments) will come up with the openings based on the general areas as specified in the Bill. These areas are predominantly infrastructure oriented.
* Those who cannot be absorbed in the workforce will be eligible for unemployment benefits.

This is a remarkable development. Finally there is a social safety net for the most vulnerable in India. The Government of India along with many non-profit organizations who tirelessly campaigned for this Bill must be congratulated.

The Bill places serious responsibilities on the Panchayats. Their role will be key in the success of this Bill. This is a true test for decentralized democracy. It must, however, be said that the Panchayats will need a lot of help to carry out the schemes sanctioned under the Bill. There is a dire need for training the Panchayat members in basic governing skills. The Panchayati Raj ministry must work with the Rural Development Ministry (the sponsor of the Employment Guarantee Act)to ensure that this training is provided.

Some social concerns persist. The suggestion that a man AND a woman each should be guaranteed employment per household given the problem of alcoholism among men was shot down. Also, the minimum wage of Rs.60/day is rather arbitrary. States have their own minimum wage laws that might conflict with the prescribed wage.

All things considered the passage of this Act signals that Indian politics is now looking inwards in a constructive way. Gone are days when heated communal rhetoric, caste sloganeering and obsessive hatred of Pakistan dominated the political discourse. Even if ever so slightly people's issues have made it to the surface this emergence of the people's agenda must be hailed as a welcome step.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Looking back and ahead - India at 58

It's the morning of the 15th of August in India. 58 years ago on this day India was re-born. My beloved country broke through the shackles of imperialist bondage stepping into a new future of possibilities. That day of celebration was indeed muted by the pain of partition yet it was a day to honor the uncountable sacrifices made by India's most loyal sons and daughters.

For an Indian today is a day of patriotism - a patriotism that honors the struggles waged by generations before us to see India as a free and great nation. We are free in the political sense but the legacy of greatness that these great souls had established is faltering badly. India has been at its best when it has moved as one nation from the ground up. Today business leaders and policymakers pay little heed to the "ground" - India's villages. Most intellectuals too are fashionably ignorant towards that part of Indian society that really made independence happen. It was Champaran in 1917 that shook the nation.

This year I may do something other than make a blanket indictment of the existing political and economic system. Today I challenge India's youth. And that includes Indian youth of the diaspora as well. The opportunities that are availed to us are because some brave soul fought and died for them a century ago. India's youth cannot deny their own moral obligation to those who are still in need of independence from misery and want. India's founders did not build a nation that would forget its weakest but rather they built a nation that would place the suffering of our most vulnerable citizens atop the list of our priorities.

We must engage. Find organizations that work in Indian villages. Do research that will help better rural policy and strengthen rural democracy. Invent something that assists in bringing dignified livelihoods to our people. Campaign against development that kills rural India. Propose development that grows the capacities of our villages to sustain themselves.

The India of Mahatma Gandhi's dreams cannot be created without addressing the most fundamental problems of India's villages. A vision for India that is oblivious of the ground realities in rural India is a vision that is incomplete. So, this independence day let's do something for that 71% of the population that is often neglected in our daily cyber discourses. We do so at our own peril. These 71% taught us a serious political lesson last year in the general election and if intellectuals and current policymakers continue to ignore them they may be in for even greater surprises.

As we pause to honor the soldiers of our independence let us pledge to be true to their fight as well - a fight for a just and better India for all. And I mean ALL.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Time for Justice

The latest report on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi is out. The Nanavati Report (text has not yet been made available) indicts senior Delhi Congress leaders of the time. Namely, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and HKL Bhagat stand accused.

3000 innocent Sikhs were killed in the violence that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguard on October 31st, 1984. Families have waited for two decades for justice. The Congress party has pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice. Yet its own allies leave alone the opposition are not convinced. The onus is on the Congress. If the Congress demands that people like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should be charged then they should use every resource at their disposal to help seek justice for the 1984 victims and their families. Anything less than that would be an abdication of constitutional duty.

Along the same lines the BJP's insistence on justice for the 1984 riot victims will be seen as disingenuous as long as they not only shelter but praise Chief Minister Modi. Their hypocrisy in the realm of human rights is being terribly exposed.

The Indian political system MUST ensure justice for all dispossessed in their own homeland - be it Kashmiri Hindus, Gujarati Muslims or the Sikhs in Delhi. Let not parties exploit the pain and suffering of these people for political gain.

Once the report is released to the public we'll have more on the matter.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What does Indo-Pak peace mean for the people?

Sometimes a picture captures reality and expresses our asiprations better than any set of words. This is one such picture from THE HINDU. People-centric policy-making finally penetrating through the impervious mindset of our polity. Let's hope this is the begining.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Lance - An inspiration

Rare are moments in history when the soaring of the human spirit is so universally evident and awe inspiring as is in the case of Lance Armstrong's 7th and final Tour De France win. Coming back from the brink of death to win arguably the toughest sporting event in the world 7 consecutive times is a testimonial to his determination, his dedication and his love for cycling. And in the process he has deservedly so acquired a legendary status not only among cancer survivors but among all those people who dream of possibilities that challenge our imagination.

Today the cancer community and all of those who stand with them are proud to have a friend and a hero in Lance. As a survivor himself he has carried the burden of our expectations and through him so many have lived their dreams of winning and in the process gained strength to fight their own battles.

As he bids farewell to cycling he's welcomed to a life of greater work and contribution to the world. We wish him great health and seek his camaraderie in the endeavors to alleviate pain.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

An Opportunity for Change - Prime Minister Singh in Washington

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gets ready to address a joint session of Congress he is presented with a rare opportunity to chart a new course for Indo-US relations. He must not waste it. Breaking through the typical niceties and declarations of democratic values, the Prime Minister should address issues that confront the common citizenry of both nations in their struggles for dignified living. And this can be achieved by proposing and acting on policy initiatives that positively impact the new economic partnership, promotes technological collaboration and articulates an unambiguous response to terrorism.

On the economic front much has been said of the growing partnership between the two nations. This partnership must indeed grow but not just for the industrialists on both sides but for the people at large as well. One way this can be achieved is by having both governments committing themselves to giving an equal amount of weight to develop small businesses. Instead of pitting one middle class against the other, the two leaders must find a way that enables small investors and businesses to cooperate with each other. This will provide greater opportunities for employment generation as well as forge a much closer relationship between the two peoples.

Additionally, collaboration in science and technology must not be held hostage to the defense sector alone. Some promising interaction has been initiated in the field of biotechnology, but for India its use will be validated only when these new technologies enable it to provide affordable health care to its most vulnerable. Increasingly rural indebtedness in India is associated with health care costs. Affordable technologies have made a great impact in tackling basic development issues. Cellular telephony has penetrated deep into India and other telecommunication advances have enhanced rural India’s access to information and resources. These technologies have also greatly improved governance. The Prime Minster should urge the Administration and the American business community to invest in assisting India to become a better decentralized democracy. Space collaboration should continue to grow in order to inspire the next generation of explorers in both countries. Overall the scientific collaboration should be such that gives children in both countries the motivation and opportunity to pursue careers in science. Both nations have produced some of the greatest scientific minds and thus the onus to promote a culture of scientific inquiry is their joint obligation.

Differences persist on the issue of terrorism - not in recognizing its threat but in response to its threat. There is no question that external terrorist threats are real and must be the top priority of the security apparatus. However, diplomatic efforts, if pursued in unison, can greatly diminish the effects of ideological rhetoric. Such efforts can only succeed if those who need this help the most take the lead in reforming their own societies - there can be no imposition of democracy. India must not abandon its positions to appease any foreign government, but it must possess the vision to engage with sincere peacemakers. Geopolitics is inescapable but holding the relationship between two of the most prominent democracies captive to conventional strategic interests is a great disservice to the rare opportunity that has befallen the two nations to forge a new bond.

Only history will tell us how these meetings affect the course of Indo-US relations but it must not be lost on any one of us how important this coming together is. We hope the two leaders can see through the ceremonial aspects and get down to addressing the issues that are front and center of their people as they leave home every morning in pursuit of a better life.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mr.Advani's Surrender

Contrary to hopes of internal reflection on the part of the BJP its President Mr.L.K.Advani succumbed to ideological might and reconciled with political reality. The party has been able to keep Mr.Advani but doesn't seem like out of any deep respect but rather out of convenience. With the BJP having a tough time in the last one year with the electoral defeat and then rifts with the RSS (Mr.Sudershan's disparaging remarks about Mr.Advani and Mr.Vajpayee)the BJP wanted to have a steady steward at the helm. As many analysts have concluded the second-tier leadership of the party is not upto the mark yet.

The resolution that the BJP parliamentary party passed reiterates its basic positions. Nothing new. Just a few days ago Mr.Advani had dared the Sangh to debate the Jinnah question. He seems to have backtracked on that. The debate on Jinnah itself was immaterial but the hope was that once a debate of that type started other ideological issues would be revisited in the light of current political situation. Well, that didn't happen. And hopes of that happening at all are quickly fading.

Indian politics can indeed use a responsible right-of-center party but that won't happen as long as the moderates in the BJP keep giving into the fringe elements who always outshout them.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Political Earthquake in India? - The Advani Saga

I consider myself an avid follower of Indian politics. I've seen a lot of changes in the political landscape - the rise of Hindutva, severe caste fragmentation, corruption etc. But the recent unfolding of events in response to BJP President Mr.L.K.Advani's statement praising Qaid-E-Azam Jinnah's speech from 1947 has fascinated me.

The fact that such a right-wing "Hindu" hardliner as Mr.Advani visiting Pakistan then visiting Mr.Jinnah's memorial is significant. And as if this wasn't groundbreaking enough his words of praise for Mr.Jinnah where Mr.Advani called Mr.Jinnah a "secular" man. I've been trying to search for analogous situations (hypothetical) that could capture the improbability of Mr.Advani's statements. Just can't come up with one.

Now to the actual statement and its reactions. Calling Mr.Jinnah a "secular" man is misleading. In the context of Mr.Jinnah's speech that he gave on August 11th, 1947 he did indeed lay down very secular ideals for the newly established state of Pakistan. And I must say that Mr.Advani is correct in praising Mr.Jinnah for that. Just because after a long career of inciting violence in the name of religion Mr.Advani makes a statement praising someone else's secularism does not mean that Mr.Advani gets a clean chit or that suddenly we must forget his past actions. But we have to give credit where it is due. And unlike past right-wing leaders who have had to retract statements that were peppered even with a tinge of moderation Mr.Advani is sticking to his guns.

The overt support that the BJP is showing for Mr.Advani is dubious. The BJP and its brass owes a far greater allegiance to the RSS and its principles than to Mr.Advani. And in the past Mr.Advani has been the RSS favorite in the BJP. Now when the RSS is clearly unhappy with the Mr.Advani we'll have to wait and see where does the BJP go. Will it go towards a desperately needed ground of political centrism OR will it sacrifice its President for its ideology. Mr.Murli Manohar Joshi, a senior BJP leader has stated that ideology CANNOT be diluted.

Right after the general elections last year I had written piece appealing to the moderates in the BJP to disentangle themselves from the RSS. This may be a push, albeit from the most unlikely source, in that direction. At least that's my hope. Only the events to follow will tell us the full story. Stay tuned.


ps. Who would have thought that of all the reasons Mr.Jinnah would be the issue that shakes the earth below the feet of India's "Hindu" Right??

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Indian Parliament passes Patents Bill

The Rajya Sabha (upper house) passed the new Patents Act on Wednesday. Thanks to all of you who responded to our Action Alert.

The new Patents Act includes a modest number of suggestions Young India and its coalition partners were pushing for. Ambiguities remain and many hurdles will persist when it comes to affordable health care.

Our next issue of Samay will include a full analysis of the new Act. Stay tuned.

Here's a report from The Hindu.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Urgent Action Alert- India's Patents Act!

With the Lok Sabha having cleared the Bill with modest amendments the short-term advocacy challenge is to ensure the remaining desired amendments are taken up by the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) tomorrow. As the email alert indicated the debate starts at 10am IST (11:30pm EST) and so the time at hand is little.

For background information read our Action Alert from SAMAY at :

Surrender To Multinationals - India's Patent Ordinance

The following links will help you bring upto speed with what has transpired over the last couple of days in the Indian parliament and where things are right now.

From Businessweek and the Associate Press

The Lok Sabha passes the Bill - From The Hindu

Press Release from Indian Activists and Coalition Partners (PDF format)


Please print out the following letter that has been written by our dedicated friends in India and that Young India has endorsed. Fax this signed letter to the following political party offices at the earliest.

Download letter here (PDF format)

* Indian Congress +91 11 230 17047

* BJP +91 11 230 174 19

* Communist Party of India (Marxist) +91 11 23747483

* Communist Party of India +91 11 2323 55 43

We will have a political analysis of this situation shortly.

Young India Team.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Mr.Modi Denied!

On Friday the US State Department denied Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a visa to enter the United States. Mr.Modi was scheduled to visit the US for a week starting Sunday, March 20th. The highlight of his trip would have been a speech at the AAHOA (Asia-American Hotel Owners Association, a predominantly Gujarati organization) convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Here's the official explanation offered by the State Department -

"We can confirm that the Chief Minister of Gujarat state Narendra Modi applied for but was denied the diplomatic visa" under the Immigration and Nationality Act, said a U.S. Embassy statement. The visa was revoked under a provision of the act "which makes any government official who was responsible for or directly carried out at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom, ineligible for a visa," according to the statement.
From the Washington Post of March 19th

This is an unprecedented decision. The decision took policy makers both in the US and India by surprise.

Young India was outspoken in its scathing criticism of Mr.Modi and his government for standing by as the state of Gujarat was transformed into a laboratory of hate and brutal violence. This decision by the State Department evokes many feelings. As the Indian government tries to negotiate with the State Department to review its decision a deeper analysis must be deferred till the conclusion of these discussions is reached. However, a few preliminary judgments can be made.

Gujarat is a state that has a great cultural heritage and has become a key player in India's economic future. We hope and strive for its success to grow and inspire other parts of the nation. No doubt. Yet there are times when the great work of a people gets overshadowed by events such as the brutality of the Gujarat violence in 2002 - both Godhara and the violence that followed. And when that happens we cannot ignore such events but rather must passionately pursue justice. The Best Bakery case and other attempts seek such justice in India have pathetically fared. Mr.Modi and his colleagues have been admonished by the Supreme Court of India who called Mr.Modi a modern-day Nero (the Roman Emperor who to sustain his power and position blamed the troubles in Rome on a small Christian minority who were burnt alive).

The Indian justice system has NOT been able to indict Mr.Modi or his colleagues. Now is the visa denial an insult to Mr.Modi or the Indian justice system? Why did it have to come to this? We'll have more analysis of this development in the next issue of SAMAY. The Indian government's protestations are expected by protocol.

There are arguments emanating from some quarters that the United States has no right to pass judgment on the internal matters of a functioning democracy. That argument is disingenuous. The United States or any other country for that matter does indeed have the right to deny a visa for a person whose native land may not indict him or her for heinous crimes. But let us not deflect the matter on to the United States' record. That's not the issue. Let us not belittle the larger humanitarian issue that has put Mr.Modi front and center of this issue. The apparent protocol violation is secondary. Morality is above propriety. That too if the propriety is of a cosmetic kind.

In conclusion, the US government's decision on the surface seems like breaking protocol. It will and has caused people not happy with this decision to call on US double-standards, which do exist. Yet on this count the US government has indeed put morality above protocol. We hope they have the political will to stand firm on their decision. Also, in ANY other circumstance such a decision could be viewed discourteous towards a democratically elected government representative. But NOT in this situation. We also hope that this development instead of making Mr.Modi a martyr of sorts in India turns the heat on him so that he can brought to justice and the people of Gujarat can finally get a leader that can lead them in the 21st century.


Sunday, January 30, 2005

Remembering a Great One


Rarely does a life so inspires and impacts us as Mahatma Gandhi's did. 57 years ago on this day at 5:15pm IST Mahatma Gandhi was assasinated at Birla Bhavan in New Delhi. India plunged into unprecedented mourning. Jawahar Lal Nehru was beating back tears and emotions of despair has he addressed a grief stricken nation - a nation so deeply indebted to this one soul who not only led them to independence but persevered throughout his life to help lay the foundations of social and economic justice that are the pillars of Indian political and civic life today. The continuing evolution of India's democracy is a testament to the nonviolence that Bapu (as the Mahatma was affectionately called in India) helped permeate into the thinking of the founders as they worked to create a new democracy.

It was just a few weeks ago that I visited Birla Bhavan to meet with the Director of the Gandhi Smriti - the institution created to preserve this historic spot and further Gandhian ideas. Dr.Savita Singh, the Director, has been doing a fantastic job in preserving the legacy of the Mahatma. One cannot escape being thrown back to the evening of January 30th, 1948 while there. I took an auto-rickshaw to get there and my driver had never even heard of Tees Janvari Marg (Road). An entire generation is oblivious to Bapu, his ideas and his work. Not to say there aren't bright spots. The incredible genesis of the NGO movement in India thrives on the inspiration it gets from Bapu - even today! Young India is no different. Our name itself is the name of Bapu's first newsletter after he returned to India from South Africa.

Whenever we put forward an idea, volunteer our time and energy or even make a financial contribution to change something for the better beyond our realm of self-interest we contribute and add to the nonviolent betterment of our society. We become a part of nonviolence. It is not necessary that we protest for our nonviolent credetials to be validated. Bapu spent most of his life on small things like working around the ashram and from that sense of action came to him the biggest ideas that changed the world.

On this day I hope we do something small and meaningful. Our efforts will undeniably add up one day and make the changes that we seek in the world at large.

May Bapu's soul rest in peace.


Monday, January 17, 2005



Today is another one of those days when we should all be happy to have the opportunity to pause, step back, and recognize, with pride, the accomplishments of the great mean and women who came before us. Rather than include a short quote from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, here's a posting which I've made on my personal blog. It is important for us not just to remember MLK on this day, it is exponentially more important for us to recognize what MLK and people like him have given us. With that, I leave you with thoughts for today:

Let's all take moment to recognize the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this holiday. While most of us (including myself) don't have the holiday off from work, it's hugely important for us to take moments out from days like these because the work that folks like MLK have done allows us to live our lives and prosper.

So I actually wanted to talk about something really specific here. That is the connection between MLK and Mahatma Gandhi. Now, a lot of people (Indians specifically) have been stepping on Gandhi's name in recent years. I'm not really sure why they do that, but there are various reasons, including, Hindu racist as well as (in Sepiamutiny's case) that Gandhi had nothing original to offer.

In any case, that's not why I'm writing today. I'm writing today because every Indian-American should take extra time to recognize that the work which both MLK and Gandhi did has given you the (hopefully) good life you lead today. We take our freedom and equality for granted, but it's really the great work of men like these that allow us brown folk (and every other color) to prosper. This really became clear to me a couple of years ago because of my work with Young India.

Most Indians think of MLK day as a day that Black people need to be proud of and something which Indians don't need to be as concerned about. What many people don't know is that MLK and the American Civil Rights Movements took much of the Indian Freedom Movement to heart when beginning their campaign in the United States. MLK even said, "the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence is the only logical and moral approach to the solution of the race problem in the United States." Without the experience of Gandhi's work, the American Civil Rights Movement may have been very different and perhaps not as successful.

In the fall of 2003 we at Young India were organizing an annual tribute to Gandhi. This time we wanted to have it on Capitol Hill to ensure that folks who wouldn't normally attend such events would, at the least, get some exposure to the marketing for such an event. So with the 2003 tribute we invited Congressman John Lewis to attend. This man is truly amazing. As you can read in his bio, he was part of the Civil Rights Movement and was, in fact, the youngest person to speak at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before MLK himself spoke. He is really a connection back to the Civil Rights movement. I had the honor or introducing him during our tribute and the fire in his convictions was evident even with age. As he said, "Gandhi, through his life and his actions, taught us the oneness of the human family" and, "Gandhi's teachings helped us to not just liberate a people, but to liberate a nation"

It's only through this that I realized how lucky we are, as Indians, to have two great men to thank for what we have today. Without the catalyst of Gandhi's actions, India wouldn't have become an independent nation as it did (surely the British would have left, but the outcome could have been very different and India's "3rd way" soul may never have materialized). Without the work of King (and disciples like John Lewis) America would likely still be much more unequal than it is. This impacts us directly because as brown folk, we're still lumped in with every other non-Caucasian group out there and treated much the same. Sure we may have a great reputation of being well-educated and such, but in the end, Civil Rights are about equal rights to get that education and to have the opportunity to prosper. Without the Civil Rights movement here, our parents would likely not have prospered in the way that they did. Surely, a lot more work needs to be done, but we need to recognize how far we have come and how much we have benefited in our everyday lives.

If you've read to this point, then you're probably already thinking about what these great accomplishments mean in your life. And I thank you for that. Now I ask you to talk to the person in the cube next to you and show how much this really means to all of our lives. These holidays aren't just the chance to drive up to the mountains to ski. They're the chance to take a step back and smile at what's been accomplished on our behalf. These men didn't work so hard just for themselves. They did it for all of us.