“There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world"
“It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from
ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its
dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and
“One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world,
the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up
of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a
degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this
civilization's commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere
“And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its
architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians
created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of
computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human
body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the
heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and
“Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and
magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in
fear to think of such things.
“When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them,
and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past
civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on
“While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the
civilization I'm talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to
1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus
and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.
“Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other
civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology
industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians.
Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth.
Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic
“And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based
on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full
capabilities of a very diverse population–that included Christianity,
Islamic, and Jewish traditions.
“This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture,
sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and
“In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to
building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness.
More than ever, we must focus on the importance of leadership– bold acts of
leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership.”
Excerpt of speech given by Carleton S. Fiorina