Quotes from Ambitious Kazakh Students

Jan 25, 2008, 8:39 PM |

The following quotes were culled from 55 applications of the Muskie applicants who we interviewed last week.  The discipline of study most represented by these Kazakhstanis were ten from the business sector, many hoping to get their MBAs in the U.S.  There were also seven lawyers who applied for the masters program with an equal number of journalists and economists and also those from education.  A few applicants each in Public Administration, Public Health and Public Policy along with International Affairs.  Finally, there were two in Library science, one about my age who had been trained in the old Soviet system of cataloging.  Unfortunately, she had a difficult time speaking in English while the other younger applicant was a breath of fresh air, she had learned how to use e-journals on the research databases.

Applicants who used quotes the most in their Project Statements were in International Affairs.  A 26 year old single female wrote about leadership but didn’t give her source: “Have the courage to have a vision greater than yourself, and let that vision sustain you.”  She also used another English proverb, “A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner.” 

These young Kazakhs are ambitious to successfully lead their country, but there will be difficulties.  Yet Kazakhstan has come through so many obstacles already after the Soviets devastated their natural resources.  Another single female aged 23 quoted a Chinese proverb: “The one who wants to move a mountain, should start by moving the little rocks.” This ambition may start with Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbaev who was quoted as saying “I am asking you to look forward to the future.  It’s not possible to stop it but it’s wise to plan it.”  In my cursory search, I was not able to pin down the source for his quote but when the interviewees were asked who they thought was a good leader, President Nazarbaev’s name came up more than once.

The same International Affairs interviewee who quoted Nazarbaev, took a quote from the U.S. founding father, Benjamin Franklin, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” She was a strong candidate at the age of 24, but our strongest one in the whole group of 53 interviewees was an International Affairs applicant who had studied in China and had already published two journal articles.  The future of Kazakhstan is very hopeful with more applicants like her.

 A Kyrgyz proverb was used by one applicant in Environment but the original meaning had been changed.  It should have read “A man without a horse is like a bird without wings.”  Instead the applicant wrote what presumably could have been misquoted from Salvador Dali “A person without a goal is like a bird without wings.”  Dali had earlier written: “Intelligence without ambition…”

Yes, ambition seemed to be the main theme of many of the quotes used and I believe that is healthy for this country of Kazakhstan.  However, there are old, pre-existing attitudes that pervade, such as a quote used by a young single female in business that I was not able to isolate: “It is faintheartedness to be laid up when you can get up.”  Another by a young journalism student who quoted Shakespeare in Measure for Measure: “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft may win by fearing to attempt.”  Yet another journalism major used the cynical quote from George Bernard Shaw: Liberty means responsibility.  That is why most men dread it.”

The same journalism student who quoted Shaw also paraphrased Henry Thomas Buckle and his thoughts on liberty when she wrote: “people would never be free if they weren’t trained for freedom.”  I would take issue with this jaded approach since I believe all people are born with an innate sense of desiring freedom.  Another lawyer paraphrased Winston Churchill but I was unable to locate the exact quote:  “Ambition is the major power or a person.  Ambition excites imagination as well as imagination of ambition.”  I was encouraged overall in the strong ambition of our Kazakh students who want to go to the U.S. to study in an MA program.  Those 13 or so who will eventually go will do well and ultimately the country of Kazakhstan will profit by their efforts.