Leader’s Speech to Young Elites

The following is the full text of the speech delivered by Ayatollah Khamenei on October 6, 2010 in a meeting with a group of young elites.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I would like to express my gratitude to the dear brothers and sisters - both the ones who arranged this excellent meeting and the ones who expressed and discussed their views. The meeting was an excellent meeting. I really enjoyed being in your company and listening to your comments. I also benefited a lot from this meeting.

Our friends mentioned a few points in their speech. I am not saying that the issues they raised are trivial or insignificant. After all, any issue or problem is important for the person who is dealing with it. There is no doubt in this regard. I do not at all want to complain about why some of our friends stand up and say these things. No, this is not at all the case. Even if everybody had stood up and raised a point, I would have been happy to listen. However, the priorities have to be observed. This meeting is for discussing large-scale issues. If we manage to use such meetings to create an atmosphere, a thought or a public mood in the country, these problems will be gradually resolved. And I hope this will happen.

Regarding the plans for the development of the country, the essential issue is to see on what areas we should focus our material and spiritual investments. This is because it is obvious that material assets as well as spiritual assets - namely, manpower and motivation - are not unlimited. If we want to help our country achieve development - the kind of development that is favorable to us and not necessarily what is commonly understood of the term "development" in the west - we should see on what areas we should focus our investments.

I firmly believe that investing on science, technology and education of elites is one of the highest priorities. Scientific progress followed by technological progress will provide the country and the nation with the opportunity to achieve material and spiritual power. Therefore, from a strategic point of view, science enjoys such importance. This is why I stressed the importance of science. What is the purpose behind this science? If there is time and I do not forget, I will briefly explain at the end of this meeting what the orientation of our scientific movement should be.

Therefore, one of the highest priorities is science and technology, which are necessary in the country. We have been suffering from a chronic historical backwardness in these areas, and it is the fault of those who imposed this chronic malady on our great nation through their policies, behavior, greed and negligence. And now we are determined to get rid of this heavy millstone. Therefore, me, you, government officials in charge of different sectors of the country and every honorable person who has the capability to help should make efforts in this regard. Everybody should try as much as they can. Everybody is responsible in this regard - from a student who has just entered university, to students who study at higher levels, to professors, to the officials in charge of the educational system of the country, to different sectors, to people involved in different bureaucratic and scientific hierarchies of the country. Everybody should make efforts. Everybody should work hard. All of us should make accelerated efforts so that we can compensate for the historical backwardness that has been imposed on us. This is a serious issue.

The speed and success on this path have been tangible over the past several years. You should know - and maybe you already know - that over the past 7-8 years the country has launched a great movement in this area and outstanding achievements have been accomplished. Of course I have detailed statistical information in this regard. There are some people who create despair and pessimism in different parts of the country - inside and outside our universities. But their claims are based on nothing. They are lying. Some of these people are just suffering from lack of vigilance, and the situation of some others is beyond lack of vigilance. The movement has been successful indeed. Great achievements have been made during these years. Our nation, our youth, our scientific organizations, our universities and those in charge of our scientific affairs have shown that there are good capacities to complete the movement I have in mind. Therefore, we have made progress.

This progress requires that we move forward with more hope. A considerable number of Iranian and non-Iranian experts believe that our country will achieve the goals specified in the 20-Year Strategic Plan before the year 1404 - which is supposed to be the last year of the plan. This means that by then we will be first among Islamic countries in terms of science. This is what the estimates show. This is because of our accelerated movement. Therefore, we should be hopeful and not waste the time we have. We should rely on our own power and continue our movement in a serious and friendly manner, keeping the necessary requirements in mind. This is one point I wanted to make.

The second point is that everybody who lives in our country and is aware of the scientific endeavors in the country feels proud. We all feel proud of our scientific progress in nuclear technology. We all feel proud of the extremely important advances and great achievements that we have made in the area of stem cells. We have made good advances in such areas as nanotechnology and biotechnology, and we all feel proud. These things are not trivial. They are great achievements. But these advances are not enough to assure us that the country has achieved a favorable and perfect level of scientific progress. In spite of the fact that it is not a long time since we have entered some of these areas, we are currently considered among the top ten countries in the world to have achieved these technologies and this level of knowledge. But this is not enough.

What are the requirements? The existence of a unified scientific network is what we need in the country, something which can make us feel proud by showing how much the scientific position of the country has improved. There is a need in all sectors to create an interconnected network of different kinds of knowledge that the country needs so that these different kinds of knowledge can add to one another. It is necessary to create a complete scientific network in the country. This has not been done so far. Different scientific areas - which are like islands - should be connected to one another in order to form a unified network. Then different areas can contribute to one another, help one another move forward, add to one another and prepare the way for seeking new scientific areas in the vast world of creation. They can pose new questions and provide answers to those questions. These are all necessary.

We have had a lot of fragmented investments. We have also achieved a lot of fragmented advances which depended on the efforts of particular individuals or groups. These advances should be extended to all sectors and all areas. A wide-ranging and never-ending movement should be launched in different scientific areas. This phenomenon should be spread to humanities, experimental sciences and different kinds of sciences. This requires efforts. I referred to this issue as "scientific jihad" in a meeting with a group of scholars and academics - which I think was held in the month of Ramadan. There is a need for selfless efforts.

If we want these selfless efforts to be complete, we need to pay special attention to universities. This is because universities are the environments in which talents are cultivated and prominent figures are educated. Both the National Elites Foundation and the managers and presidents of our universities are responsible in this regard. The focus of the National Elites Foundation on elites should not prevent it from paying attention to our academics. That is to say, the National Elites Foundation should strengthen its relationship with universities. Similarly, universities should identify and educate elites. Of course graduate levels are more relevant in this regard. This is another issue that I wanted to speak about.

How are our elites supported? I noticed that the same point was raised by the friends who spoke in this meeting. I think the most important kind of support that we can provide for our elites is to prepare the ground for them to work. Prominent minds are after work, reflective thought, production, creation, opening up new doors and treading new paths. It is necessary to provide "hard" facilities for these people. In some cases, both "hard" and "soft" facilities should be provided in order to enable them to work and make efforts. Of course these efforts should be in line with the needs of the country. According to the report that I received, the comprehensive scientific plan of the country has taken a major portion of these needs into consideration. Of course I do not yet have the final version of the report about the comprehensive scientific plan. Our friends are pursuing the issue in a serious manner. There are various views. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the youth who told me in a meeting held in the month of Ramadan that they had prepared their own comprehensive scientific plan independent of our governmental organizations. I told them to bring their plan, and they did so. I told them to prepare a summary for me. They prepared the summary as well and gave it to me. Of course I sent everything to the secretariat of the High Council of Cultural Revolution. I need to read that summary, but I have not yet found the opportunity to do so. I approve of the determination and aspiration that our youth enjoy. A few youth sit down together and decide to prepare a comprehensive scientific plan for the country according to their own perspective. Of course they do not promise that their plan will fill the gap for a comprehensive scientific plan because it may not be as informed as it should be. But this boldness, this aspiration, this determination, this self-confidence is itself very interesting and pleasant for me.

Therefore, it is necessary to have this complete scientific network. In addition to this network, there is a need for a cycle - from the emergence of an idea in the mind of an elite or genius, to presenting the idea to scientific centers to be considered and turned into science or a scientific field, to entering the arena of technology and having technological and industrial experts to work on this scientific finding, to commercializing the idea. This is another cycle. Therefore, besides the need to create a scientific network that connects different scientific areas to one another, there is a need to create a chain-like cycle of generating scientific thoughts and ideas, creating a scientific organization, entering the arena of technology and industry, and entering the market by turning the idea into a product. Of course all these things require your determined efforts as well as management by governmental organizations. Everybody should cooperate in order to make this happen in the country.

The issue of commercializing is very important. Scientific and industrial findings should be used to produce wealth in the country. The officials in my office made an estimate. They believe that by the year 1404 we should be able to provide at least 20 percent of our national income through knowledge-based industries and commercial knowledge-based activities - namely, through selling scientific products. This does not seem to be far beyond our reach. Knowledge is the source of producing wealth. Of course this should be done in an appropriate and noble way, not the way the western world used knowledge to acquire wealth. By Allah's favor, I will briefly speak about this issue later on. Of course if our governmental organizations are planning to commercialize something, they should think about it from the very beginning - that is to say, from the time they define scientific and industrial projects. We should not let a project be completed before we start to think about commercializing it. Commercializing should be included in our calculations from the very beginning. Of course pursuing this issue is up to our governmental organizations.

They suggested that the ground should be prepared in our country for establishing a new kind of companies - namely, scientific and technological companies. There are many people who want to do science and research in a collaborative way. The support that our government and government officials provide for promoting scientific and technological advances should not be limited to helping individuals. Scientific and technological companies should also be supported. Of course these companies should not be confused with commercial companies which are subject to tax regulations and can benefit from the common banking facilities. Rather, these scientific and technological companies should be offered special support. I think this is necessary and important. The government should manage this issue in a clever way.

Another issue which is of paramount importance is the need to establish research centers. In addition to the independent research centers that currently exist, there should at least be one research center in every university which engages in serious activities. Universities should pay attention to the issue of research. Our elites should be attracted towards research centers. Of course this does not mean that they should move away from learning and teaching. Rather, it simply means that our elites should go after research and do research in research centers. And this is what our elites want. As I said before, facilities should be provided for our elites so that they can engage in research. This is what makes an elite feel satisfied. These facilities help him utilize his talent and feel that the ground is prepared for him to work. They will also counteract the temptations that it is impossible to work inside the country, and these temptations keep increasing on a daily basis.

Such research centers will make it possible to utilize the experience of retired academics, in which case they will be the link connecting the young generation of researchers with experienced academics who have spent a long time in universities.

Different kinds of support have been provided for our elites. Of course people complain here and there, and I hear about their complaints. Besides what they tell me in such meetings, they write letters and reports, and they complain. Therefore, complaints are being made. These complaints are legitimate, and they deserve to be addressed. There is no doubt about this. But take a look and see where we used to be 5-6 years ago and where we are now. 5-6 years ago no support was provided for our elites, and they received no attention. There was no such attempt or movement. A lot of good measures have been adopted since then. Paying attention to our elites, bringing them together, listening to their comments and utilizing their ideas - these things are new. We should appreciate this and be thankful. It is not right to see the negative points only.

One natural characteristic of human beings is that they always want more. Of course this characteristic is not something bad. Just like other human characteristics and instincts, if this characteristic is steered in the right direction, it will contribute to transcendence of man. In spiritual areas, one should be as greedy as possible. Scientific work, intellectual endeavors and research are spiritual matters. Therefore, this characteristic is inherent in human beings. People always see the shortcomings, no matter how much they have. There always a desire to have more. It is necessary to see what has been done. A lot of things have been done so far.

Besides all the support that is being offered and all the good and valuable measures adopted by our government officials - for which they deserve appreciation - it is necessary not to let the sweetness of this support and these good measures be ruined in the maze of bureaucracy and other things. I would like to highlight this point for the officials in charge of this sector. They should try to bypass the common bureaucratic procedures and different kinds of mazes. They should try to find shortcuts to facilitate things.

On the other hand, one should not be unfair and ungrateful. In all fairness, a lot of efforts have been made and a lot of services have been rendered. There is also the intention to render even more services. "The intention of the believer is better than his actions." That is to say, a believer always wants to do more good deeds than he can. In reality, it is not possible to everything one intends to do. Your intention to do good deeds should be several times more than the good deeds you actually do. This is always the case with a believer: His intention to do good deeds exceeds his good deeds. The same is true of the governmental organizations in charge. Their intention to adopt good measures is really more than the good measures they actually adopt, but practical problems naturally prevent them from doing everything they intend to do.

Another point that should not be forgotten is that we need a system for monitoring. We should constantly monitor the outcome of the efforts we make for our elites. We should see to what extent the output corresponds to the investments made. We should not make investments and get no output. If the output is too little, it is indicative of the fact that there is a problem with our methods - that the methods we use are wrong. Therefore, it is necessary to constantly monitor the output.

In this regard, simple monitoring is not enough. We should also monitor the countries which we are trying to overtake. It is not right to think that other countries, neighboring countries, Islamic countries are standing still to let us overtake them. No, they are making efforts as well. It is necessary for us to monitor their progress too. If we are supposed to overtake them, we need to be aware of their situation. It is necessary to observe the other players. We should know what is being done, and then we should evaluate our own efforts and see if they are appropriate or not.

I have jotted down a few other points, but I will not discuss them in this meeting. I always emphasize knowledge. This emphasis is serious. It is not just a formal gesture. It is not rooted in a passing urge to conform to some ceremonial routine. Rather, it is rooted in a deep and sophisticated understanding. There is a lot of bullying in the world. The global bullies are relying on their power. Their power, wealth and facilities are the result of their knowledge. It is not possible to confront them without knowledge. "Knowledge is authoritative power." I read this in a narration. Knowledge is a source of power. Anybody who enjoys this source of power can move forward. Anybody, any nation or any society that does not have it will be forced to give in to the power of others. Therefore, this emphasis on science is based on an accurate calculation.

This knowledge can have two kinds of goals. One kind of goals is what current owners of knowledge used to seek. This kind of goals is dishonorable and unholy. Do not pay attention to their claims. The truth behind the scientific progress of the west is extremely bitter and pitiful, the kind of progress that one would not go after under any circumstances. Scientific activities of the western world - since the 16th century and also since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century England - happened at the cost of destroying the freedom of many nations, threatening their identity and imposing great oppression and brutality on them. More specifically, it was their intellectual activities that prepared the ground for scientific activities. The Industrial Revolution led to the establishment of huge factories and introduction of huge machines - which took place gradually over several decades and resulted in production of wealth. This science and technology gradually spread to other European countries. I do not want to speak about what happened in those places, what rights were trampled upon, how many poor people were wiped out, the new social class which was formed as a result of introducing these huge machines, the kinds of oppression they imposed on people and other such things. They felt that they had the necessary means. They felt they needed a market to sell their products. Then the English, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French and some other European countries started a journey around the world. Using science and technology as a tool, they created enough tragedies in the world to fill a big encyclopedia with tens of volumes. [One member of the audience shouts, "Death to America".] It was not just America. Actually, America joined them later on.

Just see what they did in India and in China. In the 19th century, the English gave rise to innumerable tragedies. I am sure that you dear youth - who pay little attention to history and other such things - have not even heard one thousandth of what they did during the 19th century. Jawaharlal Nehru writes in his book that the English entered India. According to Nehru, before the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of huge machines, the Indian subcontinent was one of the most industrially advanced countries in the world. In order to prepare the ground for what they wanted to do, they destroyed India's industry. They wiped out India's middle class. They thwarted the emergence of a movement towards knowledge and industrial progress by creating different kinds of obstacles for India. They infected the Indian nation with a chronic malady. Even after the passage of about 150 years since the start of their actions in India, this malady has not yet been cured in that country. They did something similar in China. They gave rise to those tragedies and exerted that pressure on the people of China. These things date back to the 19th century. They did similar things in Africa. They created great tragedies in the Americas through the use of science. Many people were enslaved and many families were massacred in Africa and Latin America. This was how they acquired their knowledge.

Therefore, the orientation of their knowledge was towards wealth, without any concern for ethics, faith and spirituality. Even at that time, Europeans used to claim they were civilized, but their actions were more savage than what the most savage tribes did during their attacks on other tribes. These things are not slogans. There is evidence to support every comment I made, but there is not enough time to explain now. If I mention only part of what they did, you will realize what these Europeans, westerners and their knowledge have caused in East Asia, in Africa and in different other parts of the world. Because the purpose was to gain wealth, there was no concern for ethics, religion or God.

We do not want this kind of knowledge. When this kind of knowledge grows and reaches its greatest extent, it becomes what western countries currently have. It becomes atomic bombs. It becomes oppression. It becomes the destruction of democracy in a country that claims to be the most democratic country in the world - namely, America. It becomes increasing class conflicts and differences. There are millions of homeless people and millions of people who live below the poverty line in a wealthy and advanced country. This kind of knowledge is useless. We are not after this kind of knowledge. Neither the teachings of divine prophets, nor Islamic teachings, nor our human conscience encourage us to move in this direction. It does not create any enthusiasm in us.

The kind of knowledge that we want is accompanied by purification. The Quranic verses that were recited at the beginning of this meeting refer to the same point. "He it is Who raised among the inhabitants of Mecca an Messenger from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom." [The Holy Quran, 62: 2] Purification is the first priority. This is what religious, Quranic and Islamic education says. Why is purification the first priority? This is because knowledge strays away from the right path in the absence of purification. Knowledge is a means. It is a tool. If this tool falls into the hands of a spiteful and evil murderer, it will create nothing but tragedies. But the same tool can be used by a righteous person as a means to safeguard families and the rights of human beings. This knowledge should be utilized only when it is accompanied by purification. This is my advice to you.

Thankfully, Allah the Exalted has given you dear youth the opportunity to grow up in a religious and Islamic environment. This is a very good opportunity. It is similar to what Imam Hussein (a.s.) tells Allah the Exalted in Dua Arafa. He tells God he is thankful for living under an Islamic government. Of course there is a lot of difference between Imam Hussein (a.s.) and us. The difference is enormous. This is our orientation. This is an opportunity for us - an opportunity for you dear youth.

We should acquire knowledge with the purpose of rendering services, achieving spirituality, promoting human virtues and defending the rights of human beings in a genuine manner. National wealth and power should be acquired in order to enable this nation to break with the common global tradition and carry the flag of justice. We should not bully anybody. We should help the oppressed. We should stand up against oppressors.

Oppression, bullying, arrogance, colonialism and exploitation of nations is extremely common in the modern world, and anybody who starts treading the path of knowledge, science and progress follows the same path. Some people become bullies, and others give in to their bullying. Those who dominate and those who accept domination constitute the system of domination. The situation of the world will change if a nation stands up against this system of domination - a nation that has knowledge and power, a nation that has something to say, a nation that can make its voice heard, a nation that enjoys advanced technologies and various means of communication, a nation that enjoys power of propaganda, a nation that has confident men. Whenever everybody joins hands to oppress and trample on a particular people, this nation stands up for that oppressed people and defends it. Notice how strange this would be in the modern world.

Make efforts to achieve this goal. Acquire knowledge for this purpose. Go after this goal. This is necessary, otherwise it is not an art to follow the same methods that have been used during the past 200-300 years by the current owners of knowledge in the world. It is not an art to follow in their footsteps. This is not the kind of goal for which one would be prepared to make sacrifices. We need to open up a new path. A nation that has knowledge and scientific authority - two factors which bring about everything else - should raise the flag of divine motives, divine values and divine ethics in the world. This is how a new path can be opened up. This is what I expect from you.

Dear God, bestow increasing guidance and assistance on our dear youth who are treading this glorious path.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings