World Citizenship by Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Today, on March 15, the international community is celebrating World Speech Day. The day was initially launched three years ago by a professional speech writer Simon Gibson at the Athens Democracy Forum. The emphasis of the first event was on “unexpected voices”, including ordinary people, especially youth, from all over the world. This year’s theme for speeches is World Citizenship.

It is really a remarkable achievement that just within a short period of three years, the day is getting huge popularity among more than 100 countries. Today, hundreds of ‘live’ speaking events are taking place simultaneously around the globe. The purpose is to celebrate the power of speeches, bring communities together, share ideas and change our lives.

All religions too focus on good speech and good language to win the hearts and minds of people forever. According to the Holy Rig Veda of the Hindu religion, “One should be cautious not to speak anything that hurts others. Such talk never helps, but brings destruction.” This is why it is believed that if speaking well is a skill then speaking kindly is a life skill. Every prophet, saint and preacher used soft speech to get people’s attention.

Quaid-e-Azam was known for his excellent speeches. He was a strong advocate of democracy and free speech. The speech he delivered on August 11, 1947 was so outstanding that it must be included in the curriculum of Pakistani schools. In this speech, he provided a comprehensive roadmap of the newly established state of Pakistan.

John F Kennedy also used to emphasise the power of words. After being elected as the US president, the inauguration address by Kennedy is still considered one of the best speeches of the ages. According to him, “the only reason to make a speech is to change the world.”

We, the parliamentarians, are the voices of our people. They trust us and elect us to play our positive role in parliament. Therefore, it is our moral obligation to raise public issues in our parliamentary speeches. Due to our choice of words and way of speech, we have the ability to truly touch people.

In a democratic setup, we cannot deny the role of free speech. However, I always urge that a parliamentary leader is a role model for entire community, and his speeches have a long-lasting impact on people’s minds. Therefore, hate speech and usage of cheap language must be discouraged at any cost. We must not forget that excess and unnecessary talk may also cause misunderstandings and anger.

In today’s modern digital era, World Speech Day can act as a source for new thinking, sharing views, and most importantly, gathering ideas from the usually unheard voices of youth. Keeping the theme ‘World Citizenship’ in view, all of us must avail the opportunity to express views to promote societal tolerance, interfaith harmony and world peace.

We are living in a globalised world, where societies are diverse: religiously, linguistically, culturally and ethnically different from each other. Today, the focus of our speeches must be on intercultural dialogue; promote education for tolerance, peace and human rights, and support of peace-building initiatives. We must also reach out to people of other nations and faiths to demonstrate that the majority of Pakistani people is peace-loving, open-minded and tolerant.

I would like to make an appeal to all Pakistani institutions, schools, colleges, universities, media, think tanks and NGOs, to celebrate World Speech Day with full zeal and dedication. Even if you are not joining in any public event, at least spare some time from your busy schedule to enjoy reading the speeches of legendary personalities.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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