Yesterday's morning brought renewed hope to the nation as some of the brightest young minds promised to take the country to a new height excelling in education and making the best use of their knowledge.
The future change-makers also vowed to dedicate their lives to the cause of people's welfare at The Daily Star's O- and A-level awards presentation ceremony, where 1,901 students were recognised for their academic brilliance.
"Like it or not, we will be the driving force that runs the country tomorrow, and the better we are, the better will be the days to come for the country," said Mahin Ar-Rahman, the country's highest A achiever in A-level, at the gala event at the capital's Shaheed Suhrawardy National Indoor Stadium.
The 18th edition of the annual awards ceremony, under the tagline, “Saluting The Nation Builders of Tomorrow”, also bestowed special recognition on 178 students -- 56 for achieving the highest scores in different subjects anywhere in the world and 122 for outperforming other students in Bangladesh.
Of the 1,901 students, 1,488 completed their O-level while the rest their A-level in the 2015-16 academic session. All of them achieved at least six grade As in O-level and three grade As in A-level exams.
Sanjana Namreen and Mohammed Mohaimen were awarded for securing highest grade As in O-level while Mahin Ar-Rahman for highest grade As in A-level exams in the country.
The vibrant presence of the awardees, their guardians, teachers, friends and other family members added colour to the event where the outstanding achievers received medals and certificates.
The venue in Mirpur resounded with loud cheers whenever the names of the awardees were announced.
BRAC Bank Ltd was the celebration partner while Daffodil International University was the academic partner of the event. The University of Nottingham, Helio Smartphone (Edison Group), and Edexcel were the associate sponsors while Channel i was the media partner.
The Daily Star initiated this unique annual event in 1999, which, over the years, has turned into a source of inspiration for many.
Awardees from 89 English medium schools from across the country gathered in front of the podium. Starting with a documentary on the glorious history of the nation, dance performances by students of several schools kept the audience enthralled.
The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam welcomed the guests and the organising partners shortly after the programme began around 9.00am.
Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister's International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi said personal success was important, but the ultimate happiness and satisfaction would come when "you are able to transcend yourself and work for others".
"Just because you are privileged, you have a duty; you have a responsibility to those who are less fortunate than you. Unless you are able to help those who have had less opportunity than you had, your life will remain unfulfilled," he said.
He said colleges were not all about getting academic credentials and preparing for a profession, but to discipline the mind.
"A mind which is good in thinking and learning, assimilating information and coming to a conclusion based on evidence is a mind that can be applied in every job and every place without any difficulties."
Gowher said discipline of mind makes one a lifelong learner, which is critical in today's world that continuously braces for new knowledge and technology.
"What you learn today will become obsolete tomorrow unless you become a lifelong learner very quickly. No matter in what profession you are, you will find yourself obsolete and you will not be able to do your job.
“Being the best in a region or in a country is not good enough because tomorrow you will be competing not only within Bangladesh but globally.”
In his electrifying speech, eminent writer Prof Muhammed Zafar Iqbal said that to live 300 years like the turtles had no meaning. Rather, the 70 to 80 years of human life can be meaningful if the person can impact other lives.
“If you want to enjoy your life, do something for others. You have a short life,” he said, sharing the joy he had after donating blood to a man.
“I learned very late in life that the body automatically reproduces the donated amount of blood. Had I known it earlier, I could have helped many more,” he said, reminding the students that they were young and had a lot more to do for others.
“Looking at you is so much fun. I am so happy for you. You are the best of the best,” he said, congratulating the awardees.
He also advised the students to love their mother language. "Bangla is your language. Love it," he said, adding that there was no other language as beautiful as Bangla. "If you study Bangla, you'll learn a lot of things."
Ejaj Ahmad, founder and president of Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC), advised the students to have humility instead of arrogance that often comes out of knowledge.
“We should have curiosity. We all are born with curiosity but as we go through life we get knowledge and our knowledge turns into arrogance,” he said, adding that arrogant persons always think they are right.
He said parents, friends and society have put expectation on a student, which “creates barrier in pursuing your own dream...Your time is limited so you must pursue what matters to you most. So follow your heart and do what matters to you most.
"If you want to do something for the society, do it right now. Don't wait till you become a CEO, a member of parliament. If you want to transform your society, your time is now."
Appreciating The Daily Star for its unique initiative, Selim RF Hussain, managing director and CEO of Brac Bank, said: “Today we stand here not to try to inspire you, but really to be inspired by you.”
Citing some powerful words on dream by former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam, he said: “We want you to dream big for yourselves and for our country, because you are the geniuses that are going to take the country to our destination -- a middle-income country in the next 20 years."
He called upon the students to make the best use of their opportunities they have now.
Prof Yousuf Mahbubul Islam, vice chancellor of Daffodil International University, said a leader was someone who led in his own field and could inspire others as well. He advised students to prepare themselves for future leadership roles.
He stressed on the role of parents in instilling human values, alongside helping children achieve academic achievements, in their children.
Dr Joshua Yap, associate dean at science faculty of University of Nottingham's Malaysia campus, questioned: “What good it is if you're best of the world but disconnected from your family? What good it is if you are best of the world but you're irrelevant to the society that has brought you to where you are and what good it is if you are best of the world but you are not part of this country?”
“When I look at these talented young people, I do believe that the future of Bangladesh is very bright. Be proud of yourselves,” he said.
Maksudur Rahman, senior director of Edison Group, said he was extremely happy to see such a huge number of students getting awards for their academic excellence.
“Bangladesh needs you. You will take the country forward. We will be looking forward to that,” he added.
Harish Doraiswamy, vice president (school and qualification) of Pearson South Asia, focused on learning skills to tackle real life challenges.
“Despite the fact that you scored as high as you have, unless you are able to bring together knowledge across various subjects, the world's biggest problems will remain intractable,” he said.
Students should not crave for success only, he noted.
“If you are only succeeding what it means is that you have not really faced challenges that are daunting enough.
“Success after success without failure literally means that you are setting your par far lower than where you should be,” he added.
Congratulating the outstanding achievers, Mahfuz Anam asked them to continue to pursue the urge for greater knowledge in future.
“You must become the best in your respective fields,” he said.
Urging them to return home after finishing higher studies abroad, he said, “The future of Bangladesh is in your hands.
"Please remember however great your personal achievement is, you will never get due respect unless your nation is respected.”
He also advised the students to dream bigger.
Saluting the parents, especially the mothers for their countless efforts, he said schools were important, but the most important school was home.
“It is at home that we teach our children to love humanity, to be tolerant, to lead a life of values. So, dear parents don't just leave it to the schools to teach your children. There is no better place to teach values than home.”
He also underscored the need for practising religious tolerance.
The parents attending the ceremony were as jubilant as their children.
Sharmin Jahan, mother of Tarunima Tapashi, who secured six grade As in the A-Level exam from SFX Greenherald International School, said The Daily Star's awards ceremony had been a huge inspiration to her and her daughter, who also got the award in O-Level.
“The speeches made here are so enthralling. These inspire our kids to learn values, dedicate themselves to education and serve people. Thus they can excel more and contribute to the nation-building,” she said.