Afghan leader speaks at Georgetown

Newly appointed Afghan leader Hamid Karzai called upon Afghan-Americans to return to their native land and help reconstruct its economy Sunday night. He spoke to a gymnasium full of hundreds of enthusiastic Afghan-Americans at Georgetown University.

Speaking his native language, Karzai expressed his desire for Afghanistan to become a member of the global market in the hour-long speech. Karzai is scheduled to meet with President George W. Bush Monday, as part of his first trip to the United States as the leader of Afghanistan.

“Our effort as a country is to become donors, not merely takers,” Karzai said. “We have to show the world that we can deliver also.”

Karzai, who was appointed chairman of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan late last year, praised citizens of his nation for their “loyalty and courage,” using personal anecdotes to illustrate his view of the unity among his countrymen.

He rallied the crowd with a plan for universal suffrage after 23 years of war.

“I have spoken to people across the country, from all types of backgrounds,” he said. “They want one thing: central government, independence and unity for Afghan people.”

While in Tokyo early last week, Karzai secured $4.5 billion in financial aid from the Japanese government, funds he said will be used to rebuild roads, construct buildings and create an economic infrastructure.

“In the next two months, over 1 million Afghan children will enter schools,” Karzai said, after audience members shouted out questions about the education system.

Following Karzai’s promise to root out “cheating and corruption” in the government, the focus of the speech shifted to women’s rights. In response to an unexpected comment from the audience, Karzai invited an Afghan-American woman to take the stage and respond in a moment of lightheartedness.

Karzai encouraged young Afghan-Americans to “study, learn and make money to bring home to Afghanistan.”

Prior to Karzai’s speech, Georgetown President John J. DeGioia laid out the university’s plans to help Afghanistan’s education system by sending American business graduates to the war-ravaged country and granting scholarships to Afghan students.

DeGioia said he hopes the programs will improve education in the devastated country.

“Nothing could be worse than a generation doomed to illiteracy,”
DeGioia said.

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