As President Obama this week took the oath of office, this is what his speech may have said if he was India’s President on Republic Day.
Each year that we gather to celebrate our Republic we must affirm the promise of our democracy. We must recall that what binds this nation together is not the caste of our forefathers or the tenets of our faiths or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us Indian — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made less than a century ago. That we are an Independent people, slaves of no master, ancient in beliefs, young in outlook.
We heard a Mahatma proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. This is what it means to be an Indian.
Entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed, the patriots of 1947 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few.
Through blood drawn by lathi and blood drawn by bullet we learned that our strength lay in our non-violence, but that our ability to suffer pain was strength not weakness.
Together, we determined that that we are a nation and refuge for all the world’s faiths for over two thousand years, but our warm welcome should not be mistaken for a lack of steadfastness in our own beliefs.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must be willing to shed the blood of its own sons to protect the values of freedom around the world it holds dearest.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our scepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.
India’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Indians, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it.
We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an Indian; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn respect equal our own in deed, not just in word.
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Indians are not just to ourselves, but to all humanity – commanded to our care by God. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm.
You and I, as Indians, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright as Indians. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom, human dignity and justice.
Alpesh B Patel