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Obama asks youth to join public service

india Updated: Nov 08, 2010 15:22 IST

In remarks similar to what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also often makes, US President Barack Obama on Sunday said economic growth cannot be undermined as it was necessary to lift people out of poverty and asked young people to join public life.

"We should not underestimate how liberating economic growth can be for our country," the president said during an interaction with some 300-odd students from five institutions at the St. Xavier's College here, spending 45 minutes along with First Lady Michelle.

"I don't want any young person to be dismissive. Healthy materialism is good. But if all you are thinking about is material wealth then that shows a poverty of ambition," the president said.

Even Prime Minister Singh, with whom Obama shares a close personal rapport and holds in high esteem, often says in the context of poverty eradication: "Growth is not an end in itself, but a means to an end."

Obama also recalled his days as a community worker before going to law school and said: "What I understood was it is hard to preach to an empty stomach. If people have superior material needs like shelter, food and clothing, they need to be met."

The president, who was visibly pleased interacting with the 300-odd students, also had a message for them. He wanted them to get involved in nation-building, just as he said expected businesses to contribute toward this end.

"There is a healthy scepticism about politics. In the US the people hold politicians in low esteem. Here in India, one of the big impediments to development is the fact that in some cases the private sector is moving much faster than the public sector," he said.

"I would just suggest that - I hope some of you - decide to go ahead and get involved in public service. This can be frustrating. It can, at times, be slow. You don't see progress as quickly as you would like," he said.

"But India's going to need you not just as businessmen, but also as leaders who are helping to reduce bureaucracy, make government more responsive and deliver services more efficiently."

Obama also pushed for collaborations between Indian and US scientists -- like in the 1970s for better seeds, which led to the green revolution, making India self-sufficient in food output.

"Innovations, green revolution are a result of cooperation between India and the US India can become a model for countries serving on food security," he said, soon after an interaction with farmers in Ajmer through video-conferencing.

"I heard directly from citizens through e-panchayat. They fought corruption, holding their government accountable. These lessons can be applied around the world. We must speak out for human rights that are universal."

Obama also gave the example of Mahatma Gandhi in the context of materialistic wealth.

"When I was at Gandhi's room (Mani Bhavan) it was telling that the only objects in the room were a mat, spinning wheel, sandals, a few papers and this man changed the history like no one else did in the 20th century in terms of the number of lives he affected."