Serena Hotel, Islamabad | October 12, 2015
Mr. Haseeb Kiyani,
PUAN Islamabad Chapter Leadership,
Alumni Award Winners,
And Distinguished Alumni
I am honored to be here tonight for the fifth annual reunion of the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network, Islamabad-Rawalpindi chapter. I am so impressed by the remarkable achievements of the alumni award winners, mentors, and project leaders who presented their extraordinary programs earlier. You are truly a distinguished group.
I would like to thank chapter president Haseeb Kiyani and the chapter’s leadership team for the hard work they put into organizing tonight’s reunion, and all the other programs year-round. Their tireless efforts, together with the work and dedication of scores of active volunteers, have turned the PUAN (pronounced, “Pwon”) Islamabad Chapter into a thriving organization committed to strengthening their own communities and improving the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
The common bond that unites everyone in this room tonight is each person’s experience with the United States – whether it was traveling there for an exchange program or participating in a long-term, intensive educational program such as the Access English Microscholarship Program. Your commitment to PUAN is admirable and evidence that your experience with these programs is having an indelible impact on your life.
For those of you who traveled to the United States, you served as cultural ambassadors of Pakistan. Whether in a formal meeting or over a shared dinner at your host family’s home, you were the face of Pakistan to scores of Americans.
And of course for the remarkable individuals in this room who served as Ambassadors’ Youth Council members, Access students, and others, your partnership has helped deepen America’s friendship and with a Pakistan’s wonderfully diverse people.
Earlier this evening, we heard a few alumni discuss the fantastic programs they organized with PUAN’s support. I hope Shah Rukh, Natasha Jozi, Kamran Javed, and Natasha Ejaz’s stories inspired you to create your own programs. Looking forward, I encourage you all to continue your efforts to share what you learned in the United States to bring positive change to your communities in Pakistan.
I invite you to work with the chapter leadership team to plan a chapter activity, or apply for an Alumni Small Grant to implement a program in a field that you are passionate about. Find like-minded colleagues among the 15,000-strong alumni network to create programs with. Demonstrate through your example the importance of service to others.
As exchange program alumni, you are the United States’ best friends and strongest partners in Pakistan. So I also encourage you to find opportunities to share with families, friends, and colleagues the importance of continuously strengthening the Pakistan-American relationship.
As I conclude, I’d like to mention the American journalist, exchange-proponent, and former head of the United States Information Service Edward R. Murrow. Murrow famously once said, “The real crucial link in the international exchange is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal contact, one person talking to another.”
Given your experiences, I am sure you all agree with this sentiment. Although The United States’ exchange program with Pakistan is one of the largest in the world, there are millions of Pakistanis who will never have the experience everyone in this room has had – of traveling to the United States and interacting first-hand with Americans from all walks of life. Through your engagement with PUAN, we hope you will help us bridge those “last three feet” with Pakistanis who, for now, only know the United States at a distance. Through your efforts, you will help them see the power of Pakistan and America’s friendship.
Thank you for your commitment to PUAN and your dedication to a strong and meaningful Pakistan-U.S. friendship.