December 2, the birthday of our nation, gave citizens and residents alike an opportunity to celebrate the history and success of the country we’ve worked so hard to build for our leadership, our families and each other. After spending more than a year studying in the United States, I want to use this opportunity to share some reflections of gratitude towards a country that I carry proudly in my heart wherever, and whenever, I go.
I am grateful for our leaders, who still feel as if they owe us something and are constantly looking for ways to better the lives of people from the UAE and people who have chosen to call the country their home.
To know that you are being taken care of is one thing, but to know that there are people watching out for you to ensure not just the survival, but also the prosperity, of you and your family is, to me, on a whole other level. The nation’s leadership has created a strong sense of responsibility among all who reside in the UAE to give back, to work harder, and to ensure that we can sustain and build on all that we have been given so that we may to pass it down to the future sons and daughters of our great nation.
I was in the US during the 2012 presidential election, and the one message I would hear loud and clear from almost all the candidates was how they prided themselves on the diversity of their country, and how that had led America to become one of the world’s most advanced nations.
In the UAE, things are not much different. More than 200 nationalities from all over the world have joined hands with the leaders and citizens of the UAE to create success after success: the world’s best airline, the world’s first carbon-neutral city, companies such as DP World and Mubadala that are global powerhouses, and now Expo 2020.
The UAE is a country that has prided itself on welcoming people and families regardless of race, colour or religion, to our home, and in turn allowing them to call this their home and raise a family in an environment of peace and stability.
It is the UAE’s diversity that has made it so strong, and it is diversity that will allow it to continue to become a country that stands side- by-side with the world’s finest. It is heartwarming to see people of different nationalities waving the UAE flag proudly. To know that this nation has given them a chance to create a better life for themselves and their families is something we should all be proud of.
I spent the weekend at the UAE Student Forum, which is held annually at the UAE Embassy in Washington DC, and it was exciting to see the level of passion these young students had for making our country greater. In recent years the youth of the UAE have been infused with an energy that didn’t really exist before, at least in my eyes. They feel a sense of responsibility, and a belief that their destiny and the prosperity of their country is in their hands.
Credit for this cultural shift and focus on youth should, in my humble opinion, go to one man: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. When you look at the responsibility he has given to young leaders to head up countrywide initiatives, the attention and care he gives to education and entrepreneurship initiatives within the UAE, the way he listens when a young woman or man walks up to him when he is travelling around the city, you can see the passion and responsibility he feels towards them. It’s as if he knows that everything tomorrow rests on how the youth of today develop, and he is sparing no effort to help.
Your Highness, thank you for making us all feel young again.
When we celebrate our nation’s birthday with our loved ones, we pay respect to our history, we celebrate the present, and we build hope and ambition for the future.
With that ambition comes great responsibility for us all. We must be able to dream big dreams and be prepared to put our blood, sweat and tears to make those dreams a reality. It is no easy task. But as the famous saying goes, nothing worthwhile ever came easy.
When we celebrate how far we have come, we must remember this is only just the beginning. The future awaits us; let’s show it what we’re made of.
Khalid Al Ameri is an MBA candidate at the Stanford Graduate School of Business
On Twitter: @KhalidAlAmeri