We are a country striving to achieve so much more
When I used to dream as a child, my parents would always tell me “Khalid, for anything you want in life, work hard, be an example for others”. That reminder has pretty much shaped who I am as a husband, father, student and citizen of my country.
Hard work has always been a large part of who I am – my dad made sure of that – but living abroad for two and a half years and recently returning to this country has given me a lot of time to reflect. What exactly is the example I am trying to set? What do I want to be thought of while I develop? And what legacy do I want to live on after I am gone?
I learnt so much during my time at Stanford University, both personally and professionally. Those were two years I consider nothing short of life-changing. But coming back home to the UAE has put everything into perspective for me.
Learning from our leadership, working alongside Emiratis and expatriates to build our nation, and viewing our progress day in and day out gives me a lot to be proud of – and a good idea of the example my country is trying to set for the world. So here on our 43rd birthday, this is what one proud UAE national thinks.
First, I think we want to be known as a country that is constantly pushing itself to be better. You just need to drive past NYU Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island or Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi on Maryah Island to get a sense of the direction of travel that the UAE has undertaken.
These organisations are not simply trying to teach students or treat patients, but to change the way our region thinks about education, health care and other sectors critical to our growth and prosperity.
More importantly, this journey is one where we develop citizens who are capable of thinking deeply about our nation’s development to support our leaders’ aspirations for the future.
It is one thing for a country to grow, but it is another thing for a country to consistently raise the bar and set benchmarks for others to aspire to. That is visionary leadership in its truest form.
Second, I think we want to set an example for tolerance in the region. When I got back to the UAE I had almost forgotten how diverse our country is. You really have to sit back and take it all in – we have almost every country in the world represented here.
To think about how far we have come as a country, and how welcoming we are, is truly a thing of beauty.
It just goes to show that respect for others – regardless of race, gender, colour or religion – is central to our culture.
As a third point, I think we want to be regarded as a country that steps up in times of trouble.
With everything that is going on in the region, we are seeing the UAE play an increasingly active role in bringing peace and stability to places where minorities are trying to spread fear and terror.
When my youngest brother signed up for military service I asked him how it felt. His answer still gives me goose bumps: “Khalid, we’ve built something beautiful here in the UAE,” he said, “and there comes a time where we have to step up and fight for what is beautiful, and share that beauty with others.”
There is now a viral social media movement #iLoveUAE43, where Instagram users can share a 15-second video on why they love the UAE.
Leaders, including Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, social media personalities, citizens and residents have flocked to share their thoughts and feelings about the UAE on its 43rd birthday, simply out of love for a country that has given them the opportunity to build a life they can be proud of.
Sheikh Abdullah’s short video stated that he loves the UAE because he loves our late father Sheikh Zayed, and that he sees in the people of the UAE the children of Zayed.
Sheikh Zayed built a foundation in our country that ties us all together in respect for each other and love for the UAE.
I like to think he would be so proud if he could see us today. Particularly in the way his sons and his people have carried his values forward, for the way we continue to work hard and set the example of leadership and a people that stands together to become better, for each other, for our nation and for generations to come.
Khalid Al Ameri is an Emirati social commentator
Published: December 1, 2014 04:00 AM