Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meeting the Knight

The room was tense, our hearts all racing, waiting in anticipation for Sir Abed to emerge from the other side of the chunky wooden doors. I hadn't been this nervous since SCIAC diving finals in February (which pale in comparison to the olympic performances I have watched this week). Even when I met Senator Stabenow last fall, I didn't feel the same sense of rigidity.

When Sir Fazle Hasan Abed entered the room, I was startled to see everyone stand up and frantically joined the group in welcoming our guest. His warm demeanor set us at ease. He asked us to all introduce ourselves and explain what we had done for BRAC during our internships. When I told him I went to Claremont McKenna College, I was relieved that he recognized my institution and named the alum who awarded BRAC $250,000 just five years ago. When he asked me if I knew the Kravis Leadership Institute (KLI), I explained that I found out about BRAC through the KLI.

Sir Abed gave us the general BRAC spiel describing the improvements in life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality rates, agricultural productivity, education since 1971 in Bangladesh. Our talk became more interesting when he opened the floor for questions. Many of us were more interested in his life as a leader so he talked about his changing role as an entrepreneur at BRAC.

When Sir Abed first started post-war rehabilitation work in Bangladesh, he thought his work would only last temporarily. Soon, he realized that his development work in Bangladesh would have to be longer term than he had expected in order to have a lasting impact. Forty years later, he still has visions for BRAC to grow and improve. Sir Abed was not shy to mention BRAC's shortcomings. In fact, he prides his organization on its ability to learn from its mistakes. Sir Abed specifically mentioned nutrition and agriculture as areas where BRAC can do better.

As most high profile celebrities, Sir Abed had just enough time to take a group picture with us before he rushed off to his next appointment. Despite Sir Abed's fame in the international development world, this was the only moment in our meeting where I felt the celebrity urgency. Otherwise, our speaker was quite honest and down to earth, soft-spoken and humble. BRAC certainly reflects the modest nature of Sir Abed, its leader.

Summer 2012 Interns with Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

Also, shout out to USA women's gymnastics! Way to go olympic champions!

1 comment:

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