Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam… Words of Wisdom from the Finest President of India

Once in a Lifetime Interaction  with Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam…

Wonderful opportunities in life sometime comes without much prior announcement. Yesterday was one such proud moment of my life when I got the opportunity to see our beloved Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, 11th President of India, and one of the most admired person in the country. And as if it was not enough that I got the opportunity to listen to his words of wisdom face to face, at the end of his speech, to the surprise of all of us who were already enthralled by his presence and motivational words, Dr. Kalam indicated that he will take up 5 questions from the audience. My hand went up in the air instantly, even before my brain had the time to frame a question – and Dr. Kalam gently indicated me to ask the question.

Gathering all my confidence, I asked Dr. Kalam “Sir, you are an inspiration for all of us, what is it that inspires you?“. After giving a few seconds to thought about it, Dr. Kalam replied “Billions of Smiling People “Its the smile on the face of people when I meet them which inspired me”

Here was an 83 year old man with diminutive features, standing tall like a giant of a person, every word coming from him was like a arrow hitting the intended target every time. Just his presence brings so much energy and inspiration, its been close to 20 hours but I just can’t forget the interaction. Every word that he said keeps echoing inside my head.

Some of the learning he shared yesterday, I will remember for rest of my life.

“Work with Integrity, and Succeed with Integrity”


“Choose a Leader who works and succeed with Integrity”

“Innovation comes from creativity; Creativity comes from beautiful minds”

“Economic development needs to reach every part of our country, and technology can play a big role in achieving that”

“We must bridge the Rural – Urban divide”

“Economic Development comes with Creative Leadership”

“Creative Leadership : a) Must have Vision, b) Must have Passion, c) Must know how to manage with tear and smile and d) Transparent working”

“Fresh Thinking Generates Innovative Ideas”

“Ask yourself, what you would like to be Remembered for and write it somewhere”

“Mantra for Success – a) Great Aim -> b) Acquire Knowledge -> c) Hard Work -> Perseverance”

– Dr. APJ Abdul  Kalam

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam1

Who is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam?

It would be impossible to find an Indian who may not know about Bharat Ratna Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, but for those from outside the country, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam) is an Indian scientist – called the father of Indian missile program, he served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. He is a hugely popular figure among the youth of the country, his words, books and speeches are the source of great motivation for all, he is immensely popular among the kids.

Dr. Kalam was born on 15th October 1931 and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, studied physics at the St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, and aerospace engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology (MIT), Chennai. He worked as an Aerospace engineer with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Dr. Kalam is popularly known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. He played a pivotal organizational, technical and political role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974.

Dr. Kalam was elected the President of India in 2002, supported by both the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the major political parties of India. Post his presidential term, he is now involved in academics and takes special interest in motivating the youth of the country.

Dr. Kalam advocated plans to develop India into a developed nation by 2020 in his book India 2020. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour. He launched his mission for the youth of the nation in 2011 called the What Can I Give Movement with a central theme to defeat corruption in India.


“I inherited honesty and self-discipline from my father; from my mother, I inherited faith in goodness and deep kindness as did my three brothers and sisters.” – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was born in a Tamil Muslim family to Jainulabdeen, a boat owner and Ashiamma, a housewife, at Rameswaram, located in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He came from a very poor background and started working at an early age to supplement his family’s income. After completing school, Dr. Kalam distributed newspapers in order to financially contribute to his father’s income. In his school years, he had average grades, but was described as a bright and hardworking student who had a strong desire to learn and spend hours on his studies, especially mathematics.

After completing his school education at the Rameshwaram Elementary School, Kalam went on to attend Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, then affiliated with the University of Madras, from where he graduated in physics in 1954. Towards the end of the course, he was not enthusiastic about the subject and would later regret the four years he studied it. He then moved to Madras in 1955 to study aerospace engineering. While Dr. Kalam was working on a senior class project, the Dean was dissatisfied with the lack of progress and threatened revoking his scholarship unless the project was finished within the next three days. He worked tirelessly on his project and met the deadline, impressing the Dean. For him becoming a fighter pilot was a dearest dream but he failed to realize it as he bagged the ninth position when only eight slots were available in the IAF.

As a Scientist

After graduating from Madras Institute of Technology (MIT – Chennai) in 1960, Dr. Kalam joined Aeronautical Development Establishment of Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as a scientist. Dr. Kalam started his career by designing a small helicopter for the Indian Army, but remained unconvinced with the choice of his job at DRDO. Dr. Kalam was also part of the INCOSPAR committee working under Vikram Sarabhai, the renowned space scientist. In 1969, Dr. Kalam was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) where he was the project director of India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near earth’s orbit in July 1980. Joining ISRO was one of Dr. Kalam’s biggest achievements in life and he is said to have found himself when he started to work on the SLV project. Dr. Kalam first started work on an expandable rocket project independently at DRDO in 1965. In 1969, Kalam received the government’s approval and expanded the program to include more engineers. In 1963–64, he visited NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton Virginia, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Wallops Flight Facility situated at Eastern Shore of Virginia.

During the period between the 1970s and 1990s, Dr. Kalam made an effort to develop the Polar SLV and SLV-III projects, both of which proved to be success. Dr. Kalam was invited by Raja Ramanna to witness the country’s first nuclear test Smiling Buddha as the representative of TBRL, even though he had not participated in the development, test site preparation and weapon designing. In the 1970s, a landmark was achieved by ISRO when the locally built Rohini-1 was launched into space, using the SLV rocket.

His research and educational leadership brought him great laurels and prestige in 1980s, which prompted the government to initiate an advanced missile program under his directorship. Dr. Kalam and Dr. V. S. Arunachalam, metallurgist and scientific adviser to the Defense Minister, worked on simultaneous development of a quiver of missiles instead of taking planned missiles one by one – named Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). As Chief Executive of the program, Dr.Kalam played a major part in developing many missiles under the mission including Agni, an intermediate range ballistic missile and Prithvi, the tactical surface-to-surface missile. He was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of Defense Research and Development Organisation from July 1992 to December 1999. The Pokhran-II nuclear tests were conducted during this period where he played an intensive political and technological role. Dr. Kalam served as the Chief Project Coordinator, along with R. Chidambaram during the testing phase. In 1998, along with cardiologist Dr.Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost Coronary stent. It was named as “Kalam-Raju Stent” honouring them. In 2012, the duo, designed a rugged tablet PC for health care in rural areas, which was named as “Kalam-Raju Tablet”.

As the 11th President of India

“Many, many citizens have also expressed the same wish. It only reflects their love and affection for me and the aspiration of the people. I am really overwhelmed by this support. This being their wish, I respect it. I want to thank them for the trust they have in me.” – Dr. Kalam’s message to public upon declining to contest for a second Presidential term in 2012.

Dr. Kalam served from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007. Dr. Kalam won the presidential election in a highly one-sided contest to become the 11th president of the Republic of India. He moved into the Rashtrapati Bhavan after he was sworn in on 25 July. Dr. Kalam was the third President of India to have been honoured with a Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, before becoming the President. Dr. Sarvapali Radhakrishnan (1954) and Dr. Zakir Hussain (1963) were the earlier recipients of Bharat Ratna who later became the President of India. He was also the first scientist and the first bachelor to occupy Rashtrapati Bhawan.

During his term as President, he was affectionately known as the People’s President. 


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