BARTLETT: Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Bartlett, Illinois on Sunday April 24. He was the keynote speaker at a youth conference, titled “Today’s Youth, Tomorrow’s Leaders.”
Dr Payal Patel, a physician and Akshar Patel, member of the Skills USA organization, welcomed Dr Kalam. Traditional greetings from Sadhu Vivekmurtidas, the head Swami of the Mandir, and the leadership of BAPS Midwest followed.
Hundreds of little children seated in the Mandir sang Vedic prayers as Dr Kalam paid respects to the murtis by offering flowers.
The children spoke of their aspirations and how coming to the Mandir has helped them create goals that they wanted to accomplish in their lives. When one child said he wanted to be a doctor, Dr Kalam asked him why he had this dream. He responded by saying he wanted to help people.
“When you look up in the Mandir you see these light bulbs,” said Dr Kalam, “Who do you think of when you look at a bulb? Thomas Alva Edison. He is remembered for creating the light bulb and in the same way we should be known for something. We should all strive to be unique.”
Dr Kalam was then welcomed by over 1500 delegates of the youth conference as he entered the main assembly. State Senator John Millner, State Representative Randy Ramey and Bartlett Village President Michael Kelly were also in attendance addressing the youth gathering. Reflecting upon personal life stories, the local leaders addressed the assembly on youth leadership.
In his keynote speech, Dr Kalam spoke on the power of the youth and the promise they hold as the world’s future. The former president inspired the youth to serve their family, their community, their nation, and humanity as a whole by working hard in their education and career goals while making sure to selflessly give back to society. He engaged the audience, making them take several oaths, which ensured that the youths present take the necessary steps in creating a better future for all.
Dr Kalam mentioned the problems in today’s society, including education, poverty and hunger. He requested that each individual at the conference make it a mission to spread literacy throughout their lives and challenged them to teach five people to read.
“I am convinced that the youth power, if properly directed and led, could bring about transformational changes in humanity for its progress, meeting its challenge and bringing peace and prosperity,” Dr Kalam addressed.
Sadhu Amrutnandandas, in charge of BAPS North American Youth Activities, ended the conference by emphasizing the importance of individual spirituality as a necessity to sustain leadership qualities by sharing examples from the life of the spiritual leader of BAPS, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Dr Kalam has had a long lasting relationship with the BAPS community and Pramukh Swami Maharaj, having attended many events while serving as President of India, including the opening of the Akshardham Cultural Complex in New Delhi. Dr Kalam also visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandirs in London, UK as well as Toronto, Canada during his previous international visits.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a worldwide socio-spiritual organization in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, is dedicated to community service, peace and harmony. Motivated by Hindu principles, BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals.
Through a number of social and spiritual activities, BAPS endeavors to produce better citizens of tomorrow who have a high esteem for their roots, their rich Hindu culture. Its 3,300 international centers support these activities of character-building. Under the guidance and leadership of His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, BAPS aspires to build a community that is morally, ethically and spiritually pure, and free of addictions.