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Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh

United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service

May 12, 2008
2008 APA Heritage Theme:

Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh
(Notes and Reflections)

In our present fast-changing world, the three major elements: Leadership, Diversity, and Harmony in this year’s APA Heritage theme are intimately interconnected. These significant components, principal anchors in our increasingly diverse, fiercely competitive, and interdependent world when thoughtfully integrated draw strength and support from each other that can lead to surprisingly successful outcomes.

As we examine each of these elements, we find some meaningful pathways to success – at our workplace, in civic life, community development, research, innovation, personal advancements, and other important areas of human concern and interest.

One of the constants in life is change. A good leader recognizes, appreciates, and embraces change; anticipates, foresees, identifies, and manages change before it may overtake or overwhelm us. In light of this, to accomplish important goals at any level, we need leaders that exhibit sound judgment in formulating and implementing the policies of an organization, institution, or state. Our leaders should be persons of integrity, character, and breadth of vision; understand the many dimensions and complexities of modern life and times; and possess the all-important public relations and people skills needed to succeed. Here are a few areas and attributes to consider in a leader:

. Qualified, experienced, professional, responsive, and inspirational
. Fair, supportive, culturally sensitive, creative, and innovative
. Open to growth and change; willing to invite different perspectives
. Exemplifies openness, transparency, discipline, and team-spirit
. Exhibits understanding of our changing environment, trends, and needs
. Appreciative and respectful of the growing ethnic, cultural, and faith diversity
. Attracts the brightest and best talents; creates an environment of trust
. Acknowledges and rewards the accomplishments, contribution of others
. Implements policies fairly and without prejudice or personal bias
. Does not permit discrimination, intolerance, harassment based on gender or ethnicity
. Tries to prevent unwelcome suspicion, doubt, and resentments before they occur
. Challenges us to strive for excellence and be the best that we can be
. Sees learning, sharing, cultural enrichment as an important investment
. Encourages networking, cooperation, mutual respect, and partnerships
. Makes room for special needs, reasonable expectations, cultural and faith concerns
. Sets a positive example for others to follow, imitate, and implement
. Exemplifies and gives us cause to be proud and excel beyond the expected


Our growing ethnic, cultural, and faith diversity is a reality. We are witnessing an unprecedented convergence of new pioneers from distant lands to our shores. People are transcending traditional boundaries, leaving known comfort zones on wing and prayer or fleeing difficult and tragic circumstance or events, and are on an adventure in search of big dreams, fresh beginnings. Asians and others are arriving in large numbers with special talents, experiences, hopes, and an amazing spirit to unfamiliar places to discover their own promise and hopeful future for their children.

This diversity is our new frontier of opportunity and carries with it incredible energy, pioneering spirit, and uncommon assets to envision and build our shared future.
These newcomers are our bridge to global economies and marketplaces, a resource for ideas and services needed for tomorrow’s world. They represent unique language skills, cultural heritage, different and rich perspectives on life and living that they inherited and practiced in their countries of origin and now proudly transplanting in our midst.

Many decades earlier, the English poet, William Blake had reminded us “Clasp hands and know the thoughts of men in other lands.” Today millions of brave souls from the remotest corners of our earth are among us and we have an opportunity to know their thoughts, culture, and spirit. There is much that we can learn and teach each other as we struggle past the basic hurdles of unfounded stereotype, physical appearance, mistaken identity, intolerance, and indifference; engage in finding answers and solving the complex problems of our time; and together trailblaze into uncharted spaces taking our civilization to new heights of scientific inquiry, discovery, and peace and prosperity.


We must see, there is much amidst this sudden and unfamiliar reality, beyond the pink Sikh turban, Muslim hijab, a person’s accent, or cultural uniqueness that threads our many shared hopes and prayers, starting with our common humanity as One God’s Children. The Sikh scriptures reveal and advocate a message of unity and universality: “O mortal, recognize All Humanity as One Race, One Brotherhood” reminding that “Every living being is a repository of the same Divine Spirit. The Sikh faith offers an unmistakable reminder: “No one is outside the circle of God’s Love and Benevolence,” and therefore each of us must extend the same spirit to one another as an act of living our faith, honoring the gifts that God has entrusted to us while we are on this earth. Similar messages reverberate through major faiths and sacred traditions.

This makes each of us the heart and spirit, a facade and symbol of this colorful diversity scattered across the temporal and celestial landscape. We can begin by acknowledging our diversity, with all its mysterious auras, textures, and complexities, as a part of our common evolving universe. Past generations witnessed the waves of other immigrants arriving and settling in America, and in time contributing to our collective strengths, prosperity, greatness as a nation, and further perfect our “Union.” To answer our call, we must know the person next to us at our workplace, in our neighborhood, at a public forum or community event, dispel our fear of the stranger, learn about what he or she brings as special gifts to our world, and work towards new promising vision and common purpose.


Understanding the nature and character of people, their interests, motivating passions, and not just their physical skills, appearance, or ethno-cultural origins can offer us amazing insights into an all-important sense of what makes us who we are. We cannot afford to ignore the ultimate inherent power that guides our energy, gifts, and spirit. Knowing, understanding, and nurturing this facet of our being, is to foster a true sense of belonging and pride in the place, tasks, and the challenges before us. Our sense of harmony flows from our being accorded the same basic rights and dignity, being fairly rewarded without prejudice or distinction of race, nationality, or gender for our contributions, exceptional efforts, exemplary conduct, and outstanding achievements.


We must learn about the world of which we are a part before we can compete in this tough, unpredictable emerging global environment. Our personal commitment expands multi-fold and in multiple dimensions, when our sense of being an outsider is broken and we are treated as valued partners. It all begins with our leadership inspiring us with their example and conduct in dispelling the negative and reinforcing the positive. In such an environment, we tend more readily to place our resources, idealism, and pioneering energy to achieve great things; we strive to seek and give the most to life. An open and friendly spirit can greatly facilitate our mainstreaming into our changing realities.


Our long-term and lasting success comes from our investment in people. It must be sincere, transparent, fair, and positive. We must reinforce pride, promote a level of trust, define and advocate our personal stake, strengthen team spirit, and our responsibility in the success of the project. To assure successful outcome, stress the need for each of us to pull in the same direction, rather than work at cross-purposes. Create and expand opportunities for dialogue that includes cultural and humanitarian ideas and ideals and introduction to festive traditions and celebrations that today enrich our community.

To attract the best talents, skills and services, we have to offer an environment that promotes bold new initiatives, opportunities for independent and innovative contributions, and just rewards. Once here, we need to identify and tap into their uncommon experiences, insights, the language of their and our culture and spirit, and integrate our collective gifts and passions into future strategies and framework.

The principal gateway to success is the human capital. One way to expand our reach into this fast-transforming ethnic-cultural-spiritual community fabric, is to strengthen our sense of community where the legitimate concerns of each and other untended oversights are addressed in timely fashion; serious tensions, with their multiple origins and causes, handled with respect and cultural sensitivity; and conscious efforts are made to dispel unfounded ignorance and stereotype. Seeing ourselves as part of a higher purpose, above personal glory and narrow projections, we often immeasurably enhance our collective gifts and promise. Imagine a world, as the great Indian poet, humanitarian, and brilliant teacher Rabindranath Tagore envisioned, “Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high; where knowledge is free and the world is not broken up into fragments by narrow domestic wall… Into that haven of freedom, let my country awake.” The poet reminds us of the inalienable essentials of human dignity and freedoms, absence of fear and dispelling of ignorance, and the unity of spirit. Moving forward, with inspirations and guidance from generations of enlightened teachers, daily lessons and ancient wisdom arriving at our shores, and diverse experiences enriching our national tapestry, we are at a threshold to unimagined “fields of dreams.” This enlightened and daring gateway leads to new adventures into the American and our civilization’s brilliant future.

Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA