A speech by the former president of India Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam during his visit to a local government school in Mumbai

This is a speech to be spoken by the former president of India Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam during his visit to a local government school in Mumbai. He intends to interact with 13-16 year olds about distractions in their day to day life and to persuade them to lead a balanced lifestyle; and hence the language used in this piece of coursework is semi-formal and friendly.

Good morning everyone. Is everybody doing well today? I am here at Vivekananda High School, Mumbai. And we have students watching us on broadcasting channels from sixth standard all the way till twelfth. I am so happy that I have got this opportunity to speak with all of you today.

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I know that many of you might be feeling now that this ‘lecture’ is going to be a long, boring and monotonous one. I too have experienced speeches when I was as young as all of you, I also found them dreary. It was not until I grew up that I realised the importance of a speech; it is an easy way of communicating with a large audience. So, do not worry I will keep this short.

But let me remind you that I have come here for a reason; a very important reason that I want to discuss with you all. I have come here to talk to all of you about how most of your time is wasted in unnecessary distractions and how academics is falling down the priority ladder for most of you.

I’ve spoken to your parents about ‘keeping a track of their kids’ and not allowing them to become too independent.

I have spoken to teachers about being friendly with kids and making a class full of fun and learning.

I have spoken to various local governments about giving you the right equipment so you can learn with fun and joy.

But finally, my friends, all this is just like the icing of a cake, the core is still you, it is up to you whether or not the cake tastes good, it is up to you to become successful in life. You have to put in that hard work and effort if you want to lead a comfortable life later on. You have to go to that class, learn, study and work hard to achieve those grades; because those grades are proof that you have worked hard to learn and educate yourself. Distractions; my friends, will do everything but help you achieve this. They are an unwanted practice that will ruin your life.

I know that many of you do not have the moral support from home or teachers and that you do not have enough equipment to study properly; I promise you that I am working on it, I am trying to get you all that you need. But let me remind you that I too wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. On the contrary, I was selling newspapers to support my family in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu. I strived to get an education and made good use of all the opportunities I got. If not I would still be on the streets.

Distractions can vary from not paying attention in class to alcohol, drugs and smoking, they become a habit and then become an addiction; they can become very difficult to get rid of if you don’t do it in the early stages. These distractions can really make you feel isolated, lonely and hopeless; it could create great problems with your family members and pull you apart from your friends. Watching TV or playing with your friends is fun, you can watch TV all day for two days, three days. But watching TV all year or your whole school life is simply unproductive. This is why 40% of your friends, get a percentage lower than 30%.

My friends, once upon a time there were brilliant archaeologists who gave India its vast cultural monuments, they sat right where you are. Then came scientists who invented zero and talked about planetary movement, they sat right where you are. Then came some very brave freedom fighters who gave up their life for gaining independence for the country, they too were sitting right where you are. Dear children, think about what a president who gives a speech 40 or 50 years later on will say about all of you?

What contributions will you make to the country’s history that will be so significant? You are the future of tomorrow and we being the previous generation have the duty to support you and give you the right education and values so you can live life by yourself and support the coming generation. But, we can only scoop the food and put the food in your mouth, it is your duty to swallow, we can’t do that for you. Children, we can only teach you about how distractions are bad and give you moral support, but you have to make that effort to stop and resist from it.

The school, the teachers and I are trying our best to get the things you need to get a good and friendly environment for you to study. I have spoken to your parents to encourage you in whatever you do. I have spoken to your teachers to make the class more creative. I have arranged for computers and projectors in classes so you can play while you learn. I have spoken to the biology teachers to include a chapter or two about health and fitness and what is needed to have a good well-being. I have also asked the school to hire counsellors to help you get through your emotions and social problems.

I hope I have been a good teacher today and I also hope to see some improving students when I come back. I want to see lesser number of students failing and some good remarks from the counsellors. Remember your country could use your help, do not waste your life getting distracted.

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