I was going through some old materials in the archive when I came across a reproduction of this letter:
The letter was written by Hassan Ahmed Kamel in 1979, then chief of cabinet of the late President Muhammad Anwar El Sadat of Egypt, and it was addressed to the late Ch’an Master Hsuan Hua, the founder of Dharma Realm Buddhist University. On behalf of president Sadat, Mr. Kamel graciously accepted the unanimous decision of the university’s board of trustees’ to name President Sadat an Honorary chancellor of the university.
In the letter, Mr. Kamel also convey President Sadat’s recognition the importance of education in “instilling virtue and constructive ideas into the mind of young people” that Master Hua must have set forth in the University’s original letter. At the end of this short letter, Mr. Kamel wrote that the president hoped that “harmonious relations between people from different cultures and national backgrounds can be promoted over years”.
The university’s move was a recognition of President Sadat’s achievement in making significant progress in Middle Eastern peace. Less than 3 years after this letter, President Sadat was assassinated by a fundamental faction within the Egyptian military. His then vice president, Hosni Mubarak, was also wounded. Mr. Mubarak succeeded President Sadat, and had been in office for 30 years until the recent peaceful civil movement in Cairo forced him to step down. I find this letter, which seems to place emphasis on education, moral characters, and harmonious relationships between people, timely and reflective of whether we have made significant progress in these regards since President Sadat’s passing
I will close with several quotes from President Sadat that have much in common with Buddhist teachings:
- “Fear is, I believe, a most effective tool in destroying the soul of an individual – and the soul of a people.”
- “Most people seek after what they do not possess and are enslaved by the very things they want to acquire.”
- “Peace is much more precious than a piece of land… let there be no more wars.”
- “There can be hope only for a society which acts as one big family, not as many separate ones.”
- “He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never therefore make any progress.”