Razak remembered as another Thomas Jefferson- Abdullah Ahmad

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Glindden described the Umno senior vice-president as a role model for emerging young international statesmen and thanked him for his unflattering support for the Ohio University twinning programmes with the Mara Institute of Technology and Tenaga Nasional Berhad, and the activities associated with the Tun Razak chair in the Southeast Asian Studies at Ohio University.

He said Najib is the second recipient of the International Award in the university's 200 years of history.

In his hour-long speech before a packed audience, Najib outlined Malaysia's tremendous progress under Mahathir and high lighted the prime minister's determination to beat social problems and ills caused by Malaysia's fast track industrialisation and progress.

Malaysia is undergoing multifarious changes in its economy, politics and society, causing a shift in the economic balance of power in the region. Najib spoke of the revolutionary educational changes that are taking or will soon be taking place.

The shift in education policy will make science courses compulsory for children especially those in the nation's 37 boarding schools - a bold attempt to achieve a 80:10 ratio in favour of science. Currently, only about 18% of students in boarding schools take science subjects. As a whole, Arts subjects are favoured by Malaysian students at all levels.

Najib stressed that education is power; it creates wealth. Malaysians must be well-equipped with the knowledge of Information Technology to meet the challenges of the new millennium.

The Umno senior vice-president is an accomplished speaker both in Malay and English. Najib's eloquent voice should be used more often overseas. He told the largely American audience, comprising mainly professors and scholars, that Malaysia needs growth "that is balanced both regionally and ethnically, and to sustain the economy, we need to ensure all Malaysians benefit as opposed to a few just benefiting themselves."

Though a bit too long, Najib's speech went down very well. He was experienced enough to skip several pages and still managed to retain the semblance of sequence. He must have sensed that there was the danger of the audience becoming inattentive.

He said: " Malaysia has high saving rates, and we are pushing for higher savings level because we don't want our people to be victims of the credit card society.

"Our economic growth is impressive and we have achieved it through stability and consensual politics. Racial harmony is an all-important priority to us. We are a genuine multi-religious, multi-cultural nation and it should remain as such as we strive to create Ža Great Society' for everyone, a society which is well-balanced between religious and ethnical values and cultural traditions and economic prosperity.

"Because we practise power sharing, democracy works well. Democracy though is not the answer by itself. Instituted democracy is not a panacea if there is no quality leadership. Democracy needs political leaders of quality and integrity to provide vision for the country. We are fortunate to have such a leader for the last 17 years - Dr. Mahathir, the great Malaysian visionary."

Many participants were amazed at Malaysia's economic success, political stability, racial harmony and high profile proactive foreign policy. Most believed Malaysia would be able to maintain at least between 7-8% growth for the next 35 years, assuming that all goes well, of course.

I told the conference that China, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam - in that order - will maintain economic growth up to 10% into the next century while the original "tigers" - Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea - were heading for a slow down - that is if people believe the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific which published its annual report and review a day before the conference. In fact, the UN agency maintains that Malaysia's rate of growth will average 8.3%, Thailand 7.3%, Vietnam 9.9% and China 8.7%.