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In India today, September 5, is celebrated as Teachers’ Day. It happens to be the birthday of one of India’s most illustrious sons- Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. He was the second President of India from May 1962 to May 1967. When we see the low standards of modern day politicians who perpetually seek self- grandizement, we remember with remorse stalwarts like Dr. Radhakrishnan. Only yesterday, CNN-IBN showed Dinesh Chandra Yadav, newly appointed Minister of Floods in Bihar keep relief work waiting for 30 hours till he reached to formally cut the ribbon to open a relief camp. This in a state where millions have been affected by floods.

Contrast this with the behavior of Dr.Radhakrishnan. When he was the President of India, his friends and students asked that they celebrate his birthday befittingly. He replied: “Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if September 5 is observed as Teachers Day”. This has become a custom since then.

He was the President during India’s early wars – the 1962 War with China and the 1965 War with Pakistan. Col. Anil Athale gives an account of one of my favorite stories about President Radhakrishnan. When visiting Senators asked him about rumors that Gen B M Kaul, ( widely believed to the person responsible for the mess created in the Indian army at that time), was captured by the Chinese, Radhakrishnan said with a straight face: “Unfortunately, it is not true”.

Dr. Radhakrishnan was a world renowned philosopher, author and statesman. Born on September 5, 1888, Dr. Radhakrishnan did his Masters in Philosophy from the Madras Christian College and became the Professor of Philosophy at Calcutta University. He later was the Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at Oxford University.

Very seldom has there been a person of his stature with such modesty and humility . He was the model President. Not politically active but giving his sagacious advice behind the scenes.

There is much to learn from the man who was proud that he was a teacher.

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This is Post No: 277 of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.