Ambassador's remarks at Golden Gate University, CA
Remarks made by Ambassador Said T. Jawad
Thank you, President Friedman for your kind introduction.
Dear friends of Golden Gate University,
I am honored to be here with you tonight for this special occasion. As we launch the “Centennial Campaign for Golden Gate University”, I am delighted and very proud to be a part of my University’s major campaign.
It is wonderful to be back in San Francisco, my favorite city and former hometown. My wife, Shamim, who is also a graduate of GGU, and my son Iman lived here in the Bay area for more than fifteen years. We still miss the Bay area very much. In fact, when I was appointed as the Afghan Ambassador to Washington, my son was joking with me and asking for a hardship stipend for moving to Washington DC from the Bay Area. I would not blame him. Who would want to move out of San Francisco? I had concerns about my safety and security when I arrived to Washington DC from Kabul, Afghanistan!
Frankly, I did not expect to leave San Francisco. But I was fortunate to get the opportunity to serve my country at a crucial juncture of our history. I returned to Kabul after the 9-11 tragedy to help with the state building process in Afghanistan.
My people, with the partnership of the international community, had just embarked upon the difficult task of building an effective and representative government to safeguard the fundamental rights of our citizens and to be a crucial partner in the war against terror. I served as President Karzai’s Spokesperson, and Chief of Staff. Both assignments were monumental tasks. We had to rebuild our national institutions with very limited resources and a severe shortage of human capital. Three decades of war had destroyed everything in my country. But, as you know, if you are a Golden Gate graduate, nothing in the world can stop you. I knew this from firsthand experience. I am married to a Golden Gate graduate.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am very grateful for the education I received at Golden Gate University. I have gone to various universities in Kabul, New York and Germany. The faculty and the students at GGU are among the best.
I know how important education is. The most important investment that we are making in Afghanistan right now is to provide quality education to more than 5.6 million boys and girls that are going to school. 38% of all school children are girls in my country. I would like to share a story with you to point out how valuable education has become for my people. When I was in Afghanistan a girl’s school in Logar, a province south of Kabul, was set ablaze by terrorists at midnight. The school consisted of two large tents. The next day, ever young girl, every student of this Moghul Khail School, showed up at school ready to learn. They sat next to the ashes of their burned down classroom, under the blazing sun, and insisted on continuing with their education. This was only two years after the fall of the Taliban. This is the spirit of resilience of the Afghan people; who value education and know that their future and the future of their country depend on it.
Afghans are determined to rebuild their country and the Afghan government is committed to reinforcing peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. We share, with the United States and our partners in the international community, the vision of building and strengthening a constitutional state that guarantees the safety, security and civil liberties of its citizens while promoting regional cooperation, global security and women’s rights.
We have achieved significant milestones toward realizing our shared objective for democracy, peace and prosperity. We adopted a new constitution that is the most liberal charter in our region. We successfully held our first national elections in the 5,000 year history of the country and are preparing for the parliamentary elections in September of this year. Under the new constitution, 27% of the seats of our parliament are allocated to women. We have had an average growth rate of 16% in the past three years. The terrorists and Taliban are defeated, but not yet completely eliminated.
Today, Afghanistan is once again playing her historic role in bridging cultures, countries and civilizations. Geographically, we are a land bridge, a Gate, perhaps a Golden Gate to Asia, connecting Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East. Historically, we are a melting pot of cultures and civilizations. Our people have put their trust in the benefit of the partnership with the United States. The international community has found a capable partner in our government, led by the vision of President Karzai. The Afghans welcome the engagement of the international community and are very grateful for assistance provided to them by the United States.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I also know how important it is to build the infrastructure and to make education accessible to working adults. GGU is doing a wonderful job in this regard. I received my Executive MBA from the School of Business while working for a law firm. In Afghanistan, two generations have lost the opportunity to acquire education and training due to three decades of invasion, war and violence. We have built hundreds of schools, however only 29% of schools in Afghanistan have a roof on it. We have teenage girls in Afghanistan sitting in the first grade. Thousands of our civil servants and teachers need further education and professional training. We are working with a number of universities to offer online courses for Afghan students. I hope that GGU will become one of them.
Please allow me to offer once again my warmest congratulations to GGU for launching the Centennial Campaign, and best wishes to all my friends at GGU.