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Opening Remarks Washington Preforming Arts Society Reception Embassy of Afghanistan


10.16.2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for coming. It is my pleasure to host you all here at the Embassy of Afghanistan. The Washington Performing Arts Society provides an invaluable service to the people of Washington, who we can all admit are a bit overworked, and sometimes forget to take pause and appreciate the finer things in life.

Afghanistan is a land bridge connecting Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East. The ancient Silk Route, which carried both goods and knowledge, and connected China to the heart of Europe, passed through Afghanistan. Today, Afghanistan is once more playing its historic role in bridging cultures, countries and civilizations. Over 60 counties have joined together to help rebuild Afghanistan.

When you visit Afghanistan, and I hope that you are able to visit one day soon, I am sure that you will discover the hospitality, the beauty and the vibrancy of my country. You will witness a country that is quite different from the one you hear described in sensational and violent headlines. Afghanistan is a country that is healing, that is rebuilding after a long and destructive period of war. Signs of the rebirth abound, you just have to know where to look. You can see it in the black and white uniforms that young girls wear to their recently rebuilt schools. You can see it in the signs for English and computer classes. You can see it in the new roads and health clinics. And you can also see it in the music – a pleasure that the Taliban long-denied the Afghan people – booming from every street corner. From classical Afghan music with the rubab and tabla to the latest American hip hop or European pop, Afghanistan is alive with music.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The human costs of our war were staggering enough, but our cultural losses compounded the tragedy. During the civil war, our National Museum was on the front lines. Rockets vaporized priceless Greek, Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu art and sculpture. Our musicians and artists fled the country. And, most infamously, the Taliban destroyed the Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, a symbol of both sublime human artistry and our country’s historic tolerance for other cultures.

These are the losses that we must overcome. The questions that face us today is: how and where will we train the next generation of Afghan artists and musicians? I cannot imagine many partnerships that are more valuable than ours that brings young Afghans to America, where they can discover their full potential and talents. We have many gifted young people, who could one day perform before thousands at the Washington Performing Arts Society. We just need to develop the partnerships that will nurture their emerging talents. Afghanistan’s young people are our greatest asset, and are in turn your greatest investment. Nothing would make me feel a greater sense of accomplishment than being able to see the lights come up on a young Afghan pianist or rubab player in your beautiful theater.

Images of hope are replacing images of war in Afghanistan. Though we still face serious challenges, I believe that as long as there is music on the streets of Kabul, as long as people in Afghanistan continue to sing and smile and carry on, that we are moving forward to a brighter future.

Thank you.