Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s speech at NEXUS 2007(part1)

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9th June 2007

The President of the Indian National Congress, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, delivered a lecture at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands on Saturday, June 9. She spoke to the audience comprising at the 'NEXUS lecture 2007'. The title of the sppech was titled: 'Living Politics, What India Has Taught Me'.
She was invited to deliver a lecture at the NEXUS Institute, a leading Dutch Think tank established in Tilburg, about 100-kilometres from Amsterdam. NEXUS organizes lectures and conferences on political, cultural and philosophical topics. The only other Indian who has given a lecture at the NEXUS Institute is Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
An audience comprising academics, diplomats and researchers from various parts of the globe will hear her.
"I am delighted to be here in these beautiful surroundings. I thank you for this honour. Those of you who are familiar with India will know that we are famously loquacious. Indeed as Nobel Laureate and Nexus lecturer Amartya Sen has remarked in his book The Argumentative Indian, what grieves and frustrates an Indian most about the prospect of dying is that he will no longer be able to argue back! Not surprisingly therefore, public life in India is characterized by vigorous debate and vehement contention. The cacophony of politics is the very music of our democracy. However, outside the compulsions of public life, I must confess that I am not a frequent public speaker. I still have a long way to go before becoming the proverbial Argumentative Indian. But when my husband's friend Ruud Lubbers brought up the idea of delivering the Nexus Lecture, I could not refuse".

She further said, "I was also impressed by the Nexus Institute itself, which is a significant European centre for the exchange of thought and ideas. The Nexus Lecture has become a prestigious event that commands respect far beyond the borders of Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, we are still struggling to come to terms with new and rapidly changing realities. I believe that the European viewpoint, if one can call it that, must continue to be heard. A forum such as the Nexus Institute can and should be central to how the debates of the 21st century are conducted, and how the emerging new world order takes shape. Mr and Mrs. Rieman, founders of the Nexus Institute, have much to be proud of, and it is a pleasure for me to deliver the 14th Nexus Lecture".

Later, elaborating the theme of her speech, she said, "It is appropriate that I speak to the theme of my lecture in this fascinating country, because the story I have to tell is a bit like the works of two of your greatest artists. Like Rembrandt's, it is a story of light and darkness, of mystery and the hidden hand of Destiny. Like Van Gogh's, it is also a story of inner struggle and torment, a story of how the experience of loss can impart a deeper meaning to life. I was born in Europe, but was soon claimed by another world more diverse and more ancient. Mine was a middle-class family from a provincial town in the north of Italy. It was a close-knit family typical of its time, conservative and in essence not very different from a traditional Indian family: strong in adherence to values such as loyalty and obedience, to modesty and truthfulness, to generosity and respect for elders. Yet my father, for all his forbidding ways, was progressive enough to encourage me to learn languages and travel abroad. At school, I learnt of the Risorgimento, of Mazzini and Garibaldi and the unification of Italy. But of India, its great history and its emergence as a modern nation-state, I was taught nothing. My discovery of India happened differently, through the encounter with a remarkable human being. This discovery would take up the rest of my life! That is, in fact, my theme today. I can speak only of my experience, of what I have seen, felt and thought. And if at times, I express myself too much in the first person singular, I hope you will forgive me".

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