Pranab Mukherjee took oath as the 13th President of India on Wednesday, July 25. He was sworn in by Chief Justice of India Sarosh Homi Kapadia at the Central Hall of Indian Parliament in Delhi. The former Finance Minister replaces Pratiba Patel, the first woman president of India, for a five years term. Mr. Mukherjee is a veteran leader with four-decade career in Indian politics. He has led several ministries including foreign, home, defense and trade.
As the biggest democracy in the world, a strategic ally and neighbor, we have a lot to learn from India. A multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multicultural society, the democratic process in India is exemplary. Despite intense partisan politics, their leaders have always kept their national institutions neutral.
In his brief speech of acceptance, in English, the new Indian President said to preserve, protect and defend Constitution. Following are excerpts from his speech. He said a modern nation is built on some basic fundamentals: democracy, or equal rights for every citizen; secularism, or equal freedom to every faith; equality of every region and language; gender equality and, perhaps most important of all, economic equity. He added that there is no humiliation more abusive than hunger. Trickle-down theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor.
President Mukherjee further said India's true story is the partnership of the people. "Our wealth has been created by farmers and workers, industrialists and service-providers, soldiers and civilians. Our social harmony is the sublime co-existence of temple, mosque, church, gurudwara and synagogue; they are symbols of our unity in diversity."
Mr. Mukherjee said we are in the midst of a fourth world war; the third was the Cold War, but it was very warm in Asia, Africa and Latin America till it ended in the early 1990s. The war against terrorism is the fourth; and it is a world war because it can raise its evil head anywhere in the world. India has been on the frontlines of this war long before many other recognized its vicious depth or poisonous consequences.
He added that the people of India have defeated the terrorist trap by remaining calm in the face of extraordinary provocation. The people of India have been a beacon of maturity through the trauma of whiplash wounds. Those who instigate violence and perpetuate hatred need to understand one truth. Few minutes of peace will achieve far more than many years of war. India is content with itself, and driven by the will to sit on the high table of prosperity. It will not be deflected in its mission by noxious practitioners of terror.
The new Indian President said education is the alchemy that can bring India its next golden age. "Our oldest scriptures laid the framework of society around the pillars of knowledge; our challenge is to convert knowledge into a democratic force by taking it into every corner of our country. Our motto is unambiguous: All for knowledge, and knowledge for all."
"I envisage an India where every revolution is green; where democracy is not merely the right to vote once in five years but to speak always in the citizen's interest; where knowledge becomes wisdom; where the young pour their phenomenal energy and talent into the collective cause. As tyranny dwindles across the world; as democracy gets fresh life in regions once considered inhospitable; India becomes the model of modernity.