To commemorate and reflect upon this year’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the UAE, I have written this letter to my young son. Between the time of my writing it and the time of publication, my daughter, Rowdha, was born. I also dedicate this letter to her brother to her, in the hope that its emphasis is doubled, as is my commitment to take part in achieving its aims. Inshallah, my next letter will be dedicated to her. Blessings for her and all babies born in the special year of the jubilee.
To my dearest son Abdulla,
Today I write with a full heart at the intersection of our nation's past and present. In the year of our Golden Jubilee, we stand full of wisdom from our Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, and the thousands of other early dreamers, with arms wide open to a future we have yet to create.
I am writing to you because we are imagining this future now, contemplating what the world will look like for you. My generation is working every day to make a better world for you to grow in, contribute to and, ultimately, inherit.
As I write this letter in 2021, you, Abdulla, are two years old. When you first read it, you may be 22 and entering the world as a working young adult. Perhaps you’ll read it again 30 years after that, with the wisdom of a 52-year-old, and you’ll be able to tell your mother if she got it right. The proof of our efforts will be in the pudding, as they say.
But now, as a two-year-old, you are pure potential – a precious beating heart, part of my own heartbeat as your mother but also part of a chorus of others in the nation that is the UAE.
I think every day about what the world and our nation will be like for you when you grow up, and who you will be in them. It is the focus of my life, and the object of my sacrifice.
This focus, and the power of learning to sacrifice, is your gift to me. Foregoing immediate comfort in exchange for the future is our greatest task and also our greatest opportunity. In a beautiful, but complex world, my generation must make every necessary sacrifice for the next 50 years to ensure that you and your generation will benefit. There are many problems to be solved, and we can solve them if we have the will.
This is why this year, the year of our Golden Jubilee, is of quintessential importance. It is the intersection of a wholehearted reflection of the values and vision of our founding fathers as well as the boldest of questions: What will the UAE be like in 50 years' time? And what will we do to make our ideal picture of it a reality?
This is not merely an intellectual question on planning, innovation and design. The jubilee ushers in deep rivers of emotion for our nation because it strikes at the very core of our foundation: the idea of family.
A lot of happiness in life comes from spending time with the people you care about. In fact, that is the number one predictor of life satisfaction. Simply put, happiness is the value of our connection to other people, and our family is who we spend the most time with as young people.
Family matters deeply to this nation. It is the nucleus that nurtures us to contribute and play a role in the nation as a whole, and the hidden force that shapes our lifelong behaviour.
The behaviours that you and your peers will adopt every moment of every day of your life will shape our world. And our world is in need of shaping by those with the highest degree of integrity, humanity and love.
Abdulla, as I write this we are facing a global pandemic that has brought the world to its knees and is expected to change it in some ways forever. We are rising to the challenge, as humans do. But challenges loom, too. They include climate change, fading trust in governments around the world, the difficulty of managing sustainable energy, broader threats to peaceful co-existence and the rapid rise of artificial intelligence and other technologies, among other things.
You might think to yourself: when will I be ready to contribute? I assure you, the right answer is at every age. You are ready now. Everything you do to build your capabilities, your mind, your heart and your vision and then use those gifts for service for this nation is part of the dreaming, the work and the building.
Your limits in contributing are and will always be defined by the agreements you have made with yourself about what is possible. You live in a nation that does not believe in the word impossible; challenge and change any notions you have that include the word impossible, and you will dissolve all of your limits.
Marry your boundlessness with a dimensionless nation to manifest awe and wonder. We are that nation, in which everything is possible. And you are our legacy.
So let me pass along guidance built throughout the ages and through the lens of your tomorrow.
First, grow from your roots. They are watered by our founding mothers and fathers, your ancestors, your family and the light and gifts planted by God within you. Remember your Emirati values of love, faith, family, diversity, tolerance, compassion, boundless vision and hard work as anchors that withstand the test of time.
Second, obstacles in life are inevitable – see every one of them as an opportunity. Dedicate yourself to helping others overcome theirs, too.
Third, we are individuals but we are not separate from one another. Embrace diversity, practise radical tolerance and work to see everyone around you as connected in some way to your life – and yours to theirs. That is the essence of the human family that we must all work to support through the next 50 years.
Last, but not least, love big. Love life. Love those around you. Love challenging your boundaries and pursuing big ideas. Love dreaming. Love doing. Love them equally. Love what your life can mean to someone you’ve never met. Love how many lives make a better path for your own. And love because love is a person’s greatest capacity. Love because you can.
I pray every day that you expand in love, kindness, generosity, creativity and abundance in order to serve this great land, and that you inspire those around you to do the same.
I hope you have an iron will, and grit, resolve, determination and the tenacity to stay the course in pursuit of our highest ideals for this nation. Not to make us shine on the surface, but to make everyone here have the opportunity to achieve their greatest potential.
We don’t know what the future holds but what we do know is that we can start today to work diligently to build a better one for you. Out of Love. Out of Hope. Out of Responsibility.
Abdulla, to me you, like every beautiful child, are more than one pebble in a stream. But like one pebble, you move ever onward, and you can impact all who come into contact with your ripple. This is the power of one life. And if we invest well in our youth, this is the power of the UAE: to spurn millions of ripples that literally change the shape of a nation, and of a world.
This is the power of the jubilee year, to take us beyond ideas and into the motivations and essence of our everyday actions. This is the Emirati DNA. My hope is that it may also be the Emirati way of life. Every Emirati, every day, looking out for every child's future.
I feel immense excitement for this potential. I wish I could freeze and crystallise the pride I feel about our jubilee. If I had a voice that represents the level of joy that I feel, my throat could not carry it. That is why, while my words may be insufficient, they are laden with love. And may they be, I hope, positive motivation for you, your generation and my generation to boldly create the future we need. And to our leaders, to open every channel for our youth to succeed.
Beyond the ideas, the heart and soul of the jubilee matter.
With a heart full of love,
Your mother, Shamma
Shamma Sohail Al Mazrui is the UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs