Aga Kahn Foundation USA Speech*
Sonterra Country Club
First of all, greetings to each and every one of you from the Bexar County Commissioner's Court!
Also, congratulations to all of you for participating in the noble effort to help the neediest of the needy in Asia and Africa!
Here we are on the eve of "9/11". We will commemorate the loss of nearly 3,000 lives on September 11, 2001 with a moment of silence at Commissioner's Court. Our country has been at war almost since that time, fighting in Afghanistan and in Iraq. From the standpoint of a conventional response, one might think that military armaments can address this problem. Yet, there is much wisdom in what Aga Kahn says, "If you travel the developing world, you see poverty is the driver of tragic despair, and there is the possibility that any means out will be taken, .…" By assisting the poor through business, he says, "we are developing protection against extremism."
The seeds of hatred reflected in such a phenomenal act of terrorism are sown in the hopelessness found in the poverty-stricken areas of the world. This Foundation can provide a long-term solution!
Some years ago, I attended a rally in Camargo Park here in San Antonio where the Rev. Jesse Jackson was speaking. The first words out of his mouth were, "Keep hope alive!" I couldn't relate to it, but I soon realized that he wasn't speaking to me. He was speaking to those that do not have a basis for much hope. It made me realize that although I have never had a sense of hopelessness, others do!
Aga Kahn preaches the ethical acquisition and use of wealth and financial aid that promotes economic self-reliance among developing countries and their poorest people.
How do we eliminate poverty in Asia and Africa or for that matter, anywhere? The Aga Khan Foundation works to:
- Make it possible for poor people to act in ways that will lead to long-term improvements in their income and health, in the environment and in the education of their children;
- Provide communities with a greater range of choices and the understanding necessary to take informed action; (Education is the guardian genius of democracy. If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never shall be.)
- Enable beneficiaries to gain the confidence and competence to participate in the design, implementation and continuing operation of activities that affect the quality of their lives;
- Put institutional, management and financial structures in place ensuring that program activities are sustainable without Foundation assistance within a reasonable timeframe.
As we reflect back on 9-11, we have vivid memories of the wreckage of the World Trade Center. But we also have memories of people helping one another. White people did not distinguish from black nor any other of life's artificial barriers based on race, color, creed or national origin. Those who helped one another asked no questions. They only helped and helped selflessly, some even paying the ultimate price as they rendered such help.
It has been said that the fragrance of the flowers remains upon the hands of those who give them. May your good works create such a fragrance in all you say, think and do in your life!
*The Aga Kahn Foundation focuses on a small number of specific development problems by forming intellectual and financial partnerships with organizations sharing its objectives. Most Foundation grants are made to grassroots organizations testing innovative approaches in the field.
With a small staff, a host of cooperating agencies and thousands of volunteers, the Foundation reaches out to vulnerable populations on four continents, irrespective of their race, religion, political persuasion or gender. In 2004, it funded over 130 projects in 16 countries with a budget of $149 million.
The Ismailis are a minority within the minority Shia branch of Islam and have experienced frequent persecution through the centuries; as recently as the 1990s, the Taliban in Afghanistan persecuted Ismailis.