Mohammed's speech at the Free University of Berlin
Thursday, February 7, 2008
A representative of the Free University of Berlin presented Sheikh Mohammed with an honorary medal for his efforts to promote education in the UAE and throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds. After he accepted the medal, His Highness delivered a speech. A transcript of the speech follows.
In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Thank you very much for this award, thank you, sir. Thank you everybody who thought about it and thank you this magnificent university, thank you Berlin. This award not only for me but for United Arab Emirates people and Dubai people, this give me really great pleasure to receive this on their behalf.
If you want me to tell you - I didn't prepare any speech - but I will tell you a little bit about my country. We are the fastest growing ... country and economical growth very fast also. Success come from careful planning, teamwork and strong leadership; the strong leadership to push the plan forward. I come - my background education is military and I am a fighter pilot. Also, I come from Arabian peninsula, that's where United Arab Emirates and Dubai, I come from Bani Yas tribe, and Bani Yas tribe leads many, many tribes for hundreds and hundreds of years in Arabia.
The people of those tribes - everyday there is a challenge, challenge of finding a food to eat next day or a challenge to walk miles to get some water. Not like people who, living by the rivers, would make gardens; they don't travel too much, they stay in their settlement. But those tribes in the Arabian peninsula who took the Islam to Europe, Asia and China and other places.
I want to tell you another story. I have a small stable in the desert, so I planted a few trees and a little bit of grass, and I'm talking now about tourism. I travel to Europe and I see tourism from Australia and America, Italy. So I'm thinking of tourism - how can we make people to come and look at this, our beautiful country? So, I know the local birds and the migration birds who comes to Arabia and some don't stop, some just fly over from Africa to Russia and from Russia to Africa. At my pleasant surprise when I came one day, I saw those birds who flew over Arabian peninsula were landing there in the shade drinking water. So that came an idea and we made a lot of oases. Now and we make it better for where they were going, so they stay there.
In a hot summer one day in the middle of the day, I was driving from Jumeirah from Dubai toward Jebel Ali and between them, empty place, beautiful beach - white sand and beautiful beach - but nobody there. So I was driving alone and I saw a car and I saw a European family by the beach and I said how come they stand this sun - very hot - and they are swimming? It's a man and his wife, a girl and a boy, about 9-10 years old. So I approached the man and I said, "Can I ask you a question please?" He said "Yes." I said, "Where you come from?" He said, "Germany." And I said, "Isn't it hot for you, this sun?" He said, "No, I like the sun." And you know, giving me more idea about what tourists do.
I know you think - most of you think - that you have democracy but we don't have democracy. You have in it in the Parliament and the parties but we do have - we have the Majlis and if I explain to you what the Majlis is, the Majlis is where the leader and wise men gather together and they discuss everything what's going on: what they want, what they don't want, what the government want to do or what they don't want to do. If they don't have that right - to do that and to exchange - I mean, I saw my father and Sheikh Zayed forming the Union - United Arab Emirates - they were discussing details. He said, because before they come united they said, "But what can we do? Your law in your emirates is like this - the money - how can we spend the money?" and they were discussing till they reached from what they do and they formed the formation, so we do have democracy. You cannot persuade me to wear your suit in United Arab Emirates and I cannot persuade you to wear my clothes in Berlin. We have democracy and we have free nation who can say what they want and act what they want as long as they don't step on somebody else's toe.
In this university, you study a lot of things and also you study theories - theories and marketing research, we challenge. I tell you the story. For example, we made, we tried to make Emirates airlines and marketing research said "Don't do it, because big companies is losing money and you are starting and you have no chance." We started Emirates airlines and now it is the biggest airlines in the area.
We have a port - Jebel Ali Port - and few years ago there were ships making big ships that carries 7,000 containers, 10,000 containers so we do marketing research. And we ask the companies of the ships, "Do you want us to make the port bigger and deeper for these ships?" They said, "Don't bother, we are not coming." "Why?" They said, "Because from the Red Sea it will take us 72 hours to come there. No, we will drop your containers somewhere and these ships come to you now will come and pick it up."
I gather my team and we decided to go ahead - to make it bigger and deeper. Now, our best customer is the big ships -10,000-50,000 containers.
In the Gulf War, the insurance company went high sky so Sheikh Ahmed in charge of the Emirates airline came to me and said, "The insurance is so high and we are in the war zone and I cannot park the plane together, where do I put them? I have a lot of planes, what do I do?" So I thought about it and I said, "Okay, I'm going to insure all the airplanes coming to the Gulf, to United Arab Emirates and Dubai, and all the ships." So all the ships, all the cargo of Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, they all came to United Arab Emirates and then we ship them in small ships to there. And they took us from the war zone.
I can give you a lot of examples, we teaching now the Arab young leaders and some other leaders in Dubai - I'm very proud - and some minister we're teaching there. One day I was speaking to them and I want to bring a saying - it's a European saying, I don't know where I read it or saw it, but it says, "Better a lion to lead the sheep than a sheep lead the lions." And I said to myself, "What a bad example!" So I said, "No, the leader should teach his follower to be lions so he can - the lion lead the lions and teach them what he know and show them the way to be lions."
People get slow down, for example if my team do something very good, they say, "Okay, Sheikh Mohammed now happy I will going to slow down, take rest."
So, I wrote them this. I said, "Every morning when the gazelle wake up in Africa, he make sure he outrun the fastest lion or he be killed." I said, "Every morning in Africa when the lion wake up, he make sure that he outrun the slowest gazelle or he be starved." I said, "In UAE and Dubai, I don't care if you are gazelle or lion, when you wake up you better start running."
Now, Dubai World, which is the harbour Jebel Ali that we make it bigger and deeper, managing about 50 ports through the world in 25 countries. Our companies - private and public - I told them, "Act locally but think globally". Few years ago, I told them, "No, go global." And then now our companies bigger - very big companies and they are building cities and projects in Africa, North Africa, China - name it - Europe, America, England. So they're really doing very well.
Two years ago, I formed the United Arab Emirates government as a Prime Minister. When I formed the government, it was 4 billion debt for the banks for the government and now this year we paid all the debts and we gave 70% salary increase throughout and we are now building 40,000 villas because of course in UAE the government school are free, the government hospital is free and housing also is free. I have a challenge in front of me now - to make all the other emirates like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This is a challenge, but I like a challenge. The day that I don't have a challenge, I get sad. I'm concentrating on education, health and housing and - by the way - we are number one in the world from the high school going to the University specially the girls and that's about 94 or 93% - very high, because we are concentrating on education.
I think Dubai and UAE should be a sign for all of you that many people live from different countries and different races and religion happily and, if we can do it in UAE, why we can't do it throughout the world?
I want to stay here long but what I want to say is, "Many leaders promise, we deliver."