In the aftermath of the revolution in Egypt, the head librarian of the Library of Alexandria wrote a letter to the youth of his country. The significance of this communication is heightened by its source. In antiquity the great Library of Alexandria was the repository of the known world's wisdom and knowledge. Its librarians scoured the world for scrolls from many cultures and it was said that close to a million scrolls were eventually housed within its walls. Founded in the second century B.C. by a student of Aristotle, the library was accidentally burned by the Roman army under Julius Caesar and then finally destroyed in the fourth century A.D. when Christianity finally stamped out the pagan religions of Greece, Rome and Egypt.
The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina has been established and is now nearly completed. It resembles in its architecture a huge discus thrown by the gods and partially sunk into the sands of the Nile Delta. The complex contains not only space for millions of books, but also four museums, a planetarium, conference facilities, permanent exhibitions, and eight research centers.
The new Head Librarian, Ismail Serageldin, as a leader of a more enlightened Egypt, said the following to the youth of Egypt. It seemed to me as I read it that what he said and how he framed the message, had something important to say to all of us:
A Salute to the Great Youth of Egypt
12 Feb 2011
To the great youth of Egypt, the leaders of the Egyptian revolution of 25 January 2011, I salute you. For ...
in the nobility of your spirit,
in the exuberance of your youth,
in the quality of your contacts,
in the unsullied idealism that you possess,
in the dedication to our common humanity that you bring ...
... I find the hope of mastering the challenges of the difficult transition ahead, to complete the revolution you have initiated and of building the better Egypt that your actions have made possible.
The secret of your success lies in the bedrock of your values, not just in the specific knowledge you have gained. You have learned to learn, but more importantly, you have grown to care.
So, harness your skill, your imagination and your determination to create a better Egypt, a better world for all. And as we honor the memory of those who died, salute the sacrifice of the wounded and celebrate the resolve of those who stayed the course, let us create the new Egypt, guided by a vision of a caring society where, in keeping with the immortal words, there would be :
NO Politics without principle
NO Wealth without work
NO Commerce without morality
NO Pleasure without conscience
NO Education without character
NO Science without humanity
A vision where a people's greatness is measured by the quality of the lives of their poorest citizens not by the size of their armies or the scale of their buildings.
Yes! You have changed Egypt forever, and now we will follow your leadership and join with you in the task of creating the new Egypt.
You have been called the children of the internet, or the Facebook generation, but you are more. You are the vanguard of the great global revolution of the 21st century. So, go forth into the journey of your lives, and create a better world for yourselves and for others. Lead and all shall follow. Think of the unborn, remember the forgotten, give hope to the forlorn, include the excluded, reach out to the unreached, and by your actions from this day onwards lay the foundation for better tomorrows.
Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Librarian of Alexandria
Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina