SEASON OF MOVEMENT
A Speech Prepared For The Panel “Future Of Mongolia” Organized For Stanford Travelers
Stanford Professors and Travelers, Distinguished delegates,
As a Stanford graduate, it is my honor to talk in front of the first Stanford Travelers’ Group visiting Mongolia. Because I haven’t got into my regular work schedule after my recent graduation yet, my current task, which I received via the University’s email system from Kara Fischer, reminded me of a homework which, luckily, is not to be graded. I am so happy to see so many Stanford delegates in my country and I am sure that you’ll bring a special kind of inspiration and feeling of optimism from Mongolia back to California. Even for the most liberal Californians Mongolia can offer its original taste of freedom, I believe.
Given the short amount of time, I would like to focus only one important issue that Mongols valued historically and that would still be very important for our future.
From your readings or from your recent experience you must have noticed that normal life in Mongolian vast territory wouldn’t be possible without mobility. That is why we are described as growing up on the horseback. Nomadic lifestyle is not a backward lifestyle as many think. It is just the longest surviving lifestyle given our harsh climate where spring storms wipe out seeds of any crop or, winter snow-shed blocks roads to food sources. But it is not to say that the nomadic lifestyle is our only future. It is already not. However, the habit of living on the horseback for centuries inherited Mongols one important quality: that they are not afraid of change.
Many thousand families survived unemployment and poverty thanks to their ability to “go and find” as Mongolian citizens were given the right to travel abroad when communist centrally planned economy collapsed in 1990. Physical mobility was not enough. Transfers occurred in every level: our ideal changed from communism to democracy, planning was not only the job of government but also the job of everybody, English became as the third language of my generation very quickly and second language for my son’s generation, new technologies required us to learn typing and clicking.
As I look back at myself only, past fourteen years has been the busiest years of change in my ability despite my lifestyle remained modest. If you interview any of placid looking mongol man and woman and ask what they went through to sustain and improve their life during the simultaneous economic and political transition of past few years, everybody will be able to talk a fascinating story that would sound like a potential Hollywood drama.
Mr. Elbegdorj Thakhia, a leader of the democratic movement of 1990s, crossed the country for last several months to see the faces of those men and women and talk to them about Mongolia’s future. Tired of poverty despite their endless work and struggle, people came to his talk massively even though it was the first non-free lecture given by a politician. No hall seemed to be big enough to accommodate listeners in every town of fourteen provinces he visited. No political partisanship, location or age was an issue. You might be wondering what kind of topic was that strong to call the same attention of strongly, politically divided audience of Mongolian voters prior and during the heat of the 2004 election disputes.
The topic was “To Move or not to Move!”. This question-topic was so close to everybody’s heart. Like a herder deciding his tomorrow’s move looking at the pasture and the sky or even at the direction of movements of birds and animals, Mongolian families put this question to themselves almost every day during transition years. They still do.
For Mr. Elbegdorj himself, he recently announced that he wants to move from Ulaanbaatar to Har-Horum, the ancient capital of Mongolia. For Mongols, Har-Horum is not only a small historic town located at the heart of Mongolia but also a symbol of unification of the Mongols. Har Horum became our capital only after Mongols overcome their internal amenity and became strong enough to build a bigger future.
I think that Mr. Elbegdorj’s proposal to move to Har-Horum is a great idea. It does not require everybody to move to Har Horum physically, it offers us to think of such a way of development and governance that would make Har Horum our dream place. It offers us to contemplate what kind of mistake we don’t want to make in Har Horum while encouraging participation, business and progress there. Because this place is capable to inspire development of every town of Mongolia, our best knowledge learnt from life experiences, transition mistakes and university classrooms are needed for the projects to develop Har Horum so that no active of this town becomes a dead capital. I am very hopeful that the newly forming Parliament and Government will take this initiative to mobilize resources.
At the 113th Stanford Commencement Ceremony we—graduating students--were spoken that all the good changes are brought by people with knowledge and brave spirit to change. Mongolia is lucky enough to accumulate some knowledge peacefully and even luckier that we are living in the era where the knowledge is disseminated freely.
Undividable spirit to change our life with high moral standard is still on the difficult stage of forming. We have been witnessing that without sets of systems based on moral values, our dreams to build democracy, protect human rights, prosper capitalism, or enjoy clean air are not able to pass the tests of time. While ending, the “season of movement” from communism to capitalism has put forward another requirement: to have a strong moral foundation for every level of academic, business, political and social regulations and activities. As this requirement is met, future would be bright for my country of creative and talented people.
Thank you very much for coming to Mongolia!