In July 2002, after a dedicated career as one of India’s foremost scientists, Bharat Ratna Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam took office as the nation’s 11th president.
His Excellency was born in 1931 into a lower middle-class family in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu. He spent his formative years selling newspapers and cigarettes in order to pay his school fees. His dedication and sincerity attracted the affection of his mentors who were quick to foster his talents. His destiny was entwined with India’s own; his research was a major factor in India’s rise to becoming one of the world’s technologically advanced nations. In 1997 he received the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s greatest honour.
His Excellency has always been a strong advocate of India being strong and self-sufficient. As an aerospace engineer and scientist, this vision was first channelled into developing the first indigenous satellite launch vehicle, that injected the Rohini satellite into the earth’s orbit. He then spent 10 years developing India’s first air-to-air missiles, including the famous “Agni” long-range missile. His Excellency’s research into missile technology also had ramifications for medical research. The device now used in heart surgery to maintain blood flow in the arteries, known as a stent, was one way in which the field of medicine benefited from his research.
From 1992 – 1997, His Excellency was scientific advisor to the Defense Ministry, and later principal advisor to the Cabinet, with the status of a cabinet minister. He has worked with various government departments on technological strategies to advance the defense, economic and social sectors. In Bangalore, His Excellency set up the the Imarat Research Centre, which attracts some of the best minds in India and is the hub of the most critical technological research in the nation. Prior to becoming president, His Excellency was a professor at Anna University Chennai, engaged in teaching and research.
It was as Chairman of the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council that President Kalam first generated his now-famous “Technology Vision 2020” documents—a road map for transforming the nation from “Developing India to Developed India.” This has become the theme of his presidential tenure. His Excellency has transformed the image of the presidency by his utterly direct, personal approach to people from all walks of life. His advocacy of his vision for India’s development is formidable. His Excellency refused to accept any foreign engagements during his first year of tenure. Instead, he has travelled the length and breadth of India, meeting with ordinary people and more than 100,000 students because, he believes that in these young people lies the future of India. As such, they are now his targets, especially their minds; His Excellency’s ambition is to “ignite” their minds and encourage all people to think creatively. “The mind,” he says, “is the most powerful resource on the planet. It is the most active part of our life.”