“Six Quotes”: A lesson in Narrative

by Waleed Ali Khan

I’ve been trying to find ways to be a better blogger and my friends have been amazing  in giving me positive criticism and pointing out areas where I can improve. I’ve gone so far as to read a book “Blogging for Dummies” to help me find my niche in the blogosphere.

The day before yesterday, I was supposed to go for this session on interfaith dialog organized by Northwestern University but I don’t remember how I ended up going for my Dean’s farewell speech instead. In retrospect, I’m glad I did.

The reason why I thought the speech, “Six Quotes from Six Years in Qatar” was so inspiring had little to do with its content. Speeches about one’s memories, especially those spanning over 6 years, are often told chronologically, with major events being highlighted along the way. Such presentations, almost always lose the audience’s attention half way through the presentation, as they are presented with monotonous PowerPoint presentations along with their explanations.

This one was different. Each quote was so excitingly strange that the audience would anticipate how that specific quote would be so important for the dean to summarize such a long and fruitful tenure. My favorite quotation was the second one, “A4” (yes, just A4!). He talked about how the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Carnegie Mellon Qatar said that the biggest challenge they were facing while setting up the IT infrastructure in the yet to be opened Qatar Campus was adopting to the A4 size paper instead of the US 8” x 11.5” standard. From a superficial level, such an issue seems small – but when one is sending faxes back and forth, important texts ended up being cut off!. From this very trivial quote, the Dean managed to put his message across – that details matter. He also managed to put across the idea that we should take nothing for granted. From this he managed to call events where the people from US felt lost in this completely different culture and way of life as an “A4 Moment”.

Another thing that I liked about the Dean was that he never had this elitist attitude about him, and I felt like he really accepted the Qatari culture for what it is. It was obvious that he had not come to Qatar to Educate the Uneducated, but instead to cause a change so that Qatar could hold its values and move forward with them. As he aptly said

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”

He will surely be missed in Qatar.



Updates on the Blog:

More on the happiness Series Soon: I’m thinking of doing either a Philosophy or a Theology piece on Happiness.

I am doing a roundtable on "Personal Branding” with regard to my blogging experience on Sunday as a part of CMU’s Professional Fluency Series! yay!

I also need a name for my blog. I’m really having a hard time choosing one. Your suggestions will be greatly appreciated (you may read the “About” page to get an idea about what my blog is about.