Remarks at the National College of Arts

Principal, National College of Arts Syed Murtaza Jafri; NCA Film and Television Department Head Majid Khan; Distinguished students and faculty of the NCA; fellow guests:

As Salam-u-Alaikum, and Good Evening.

It’s great to be at NCA. I appreciate the opportunity to address a gathering of such talented artists and young people, and to welcome to Lahore a unique performance that fuses the cultures and experiences of Pakistanis and Americans, and that illustrates the diversity that imparts to American culture much of its texture and richness. I would especially like to thank Principal Syed Murtaza Jafri, Majid Khan and everyone here at the National College of Arts for hosting tonight’s performance.

It is an honor for me to represent the United States in Lahore, a city with such a rich cultural history dating back centuries; indeed, the National College of Arts itself has played a distinguished role in creating that cultural history since its foundation in 1875.

Here in Pakistan, the United States government is providing education and professional exchange programs that afford thousands of Pakistanis the chance to visit our country to study and connect with their professional peers.

We are particularly proud of our Fulbright scholarship program in Pakistan, which fully funds students to pursue their Master’s or Doctoral degrees in the United States. We send more Fulbright Scholars to the United States from Pakistan than from any other country in the world—154 in this past year alone.

But let me emphasize, exchange programs are not only for scholarly elites. They are in fact Pakistanis from all walks of life can benefit from our programs. And when they return, they have an immediate impact on their families and communities. They are better informed about the United States of course, and they have gained skills, experience, and connections that tee them up for success in whatever future they seek.

There are so many other ways in which our cultural diplomacy efforts benefit Pakistanis. Our University Partnership program links Pakistani and American universities in an effort to build capacity and facilitate academic exchanges. At present, we have four such programs here in Punjab, and we are working to develop even more.

Tonight we are here to celebrate arts and culture; in particular, a unique product of Pakistani-American immigrant culture. Much of the richness, the variety of American life, comes from the unique experiences of immigrants and their children and from the fusion of those experiences with the broader American culture with which they intersect daily. The Pakistani community in the United States is making its mark on our culture, and Pakistani Americans help their neighbors to get beyond the headlines to appreciate the beauty, the heritage, and nuance of your country and culture.

The U.S. Consulate General in Lahore is proud to support cultural programs such as the one you are about to see. Tonight’s one-woman play was written, directed, and will be performed by Fawzia Mirza, who comes to us from Los Angeles, California. Critics have called Ms. Mirza one of the “Top 10 Creatives” of the year and one of Chicago’s “Rising stars in Indie filmmaking.” I think we are all in for quite a show. I am happy to present,Me, My Mom, and Sharmila.