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APJ Abdul Kalam – The ‘Missile Man’

“My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.”

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June 27th, 2015 marked a day of great remorse and mourning in India, as it brought the demise of a great leader, scientist and overall a wonderful human being, APJ Abdul Kalam, A.K.A. India’s “Missile Man.” We would like to pay our respects to one of the most remarkable men that our country has known, by telling our friends and the youth that follows us, who Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was.
To say he was the symbol of humility, nobility and great inspiration would still not do justice. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born to a Tamil Muslim family in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. He was the humble son of a boat owner, and his mother, a housewife. Youngest of four brothers and one sister, he started to work at a young age to help support his family, but never gave up school. He wasn’t a high ranker in his school, nevertheless, he had a strong inclination towards the mathematics.

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Like so many of us, he lost interest in his first degree of Physics, and went on to study aeronautical engineering. There’s a popular story from his college days, in which he had to complete a science project within a deadline of three days. The dean threatened to revoke Dr. Kalam’s scholarship, lest he meet the deadline. The dean was simply trying to push the boy by his words, but to the dean’s surprise, Dr. Kalam met and surpassed his expectations.
Dr. Kalam wanted to become a fighter pilot, but missed it by a slight chance. Instead, he started off his career by designing helicopters for the Indian army at DRDO, but somehow, he was never satisfied with this path. In 1965 he began to work independently on a rocket project at DRDO which the government approved for expansion by 1969. In 1969 he directed India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) at ISRO, which launched satellite Rohini in 1980. In the years 1970 to 1980 he worked on the Polar Satellite Launch (PSLV) and SLV – III projects, both of which were successful. In 1970, Dr. Kalam was working on two other classified projects, Project Devil and Project Valiant, ballistic missile projects which were funded by the PM, Indira Gandhi, under full discretion. His tremendous progress in the field and leadership led him to be appointed as the chief executive for the RS. 388 Crore mission IGMDP (integrated Guided Missile Development Programme). Dr. Kalam played an integral part in developing missiles under the mission, including Agni, an intermediate range ballistic missile, and Prithvi, the tactical surface-to-surface missile. Thus, he became India’s “Missile Man”. Between 1992 and 1999, Dr. Kalam played a major role in the Pokhran-II nuclear tests.
Dr. Kalam reluctantly entered politics, when he served as the 11th president of India from 2002 to 2007. He was the third president in history to be honored with the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, before his presidency. During his presidency, Dr. Kalam quickly went from being the “Missile Man” to the “People’s President”.
After his term was over, Dr. Kalam continued on initial path of gaining and sharing as much knowledge as possible. He frequented many universities to give lectures. In 2012 he launched a program for the youth called What Can I Give Movement, with the purpose of defeating corruption. He followed his purpose in life to his very last breath, which he took while delivering a lecture on “Creating a livable planet earth”, in IIM, Shillong.

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– Talks to students at Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace) on India’s Republic Day 2007

Dr. Abdul Kalam was a man who not only gave a great deal to his country, but served as an inspiration to all of us. The always smiling, kind-hearted and brilliant man has left behind countless lessons for the youth of today. He taught us how crucial education was in life, no matter what background you’re from, and that we must never stop being students. He taught us that hard work and perseverance always pays off, and that we should never let our difficulties defeat us. He taught us to dream, to work hard, to love, and to be kind, to others and ourselves. Rest in Peace, India’s “Missile Man”, we the youth, thank you and salute you.

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