The Harvard Club of Washington DC and the Embassy of Sri Lanka hosted a Tsunami Holiday Benefit on November 28, 2007 to support scholarships and micro-loans provided by Dr. Patrick Mendis.

Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke welcomed the gathering of Harvard alumni and spoke about the diplomatic history of Sri Lanka that dates back to Augustus Caesar of the Roman Empire. He elaborated the continued foreign relations with other countries before the colonial powers landed on the island. The ambassador reminded the Harvard Club members that Sri Lanka received universal adult suffrage in 1931, seventeen years after the United States. Since then, Sri Lanka has been a practicing parliamentary democracy, he said.

In his speech, Ambassador Goonetilleke highlighted the engineering marvels of the centuries-old hydraulic civilization in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, which still provide irrigated water to thousands of farmers. Dr. Mendis, who was born and raised on an irrigated rice field in Polonnaruwa, told his fellow alumni that he “enjoyed the formative years working with water-buffaloes” and remembered the days when he went to school “bare-foot.”

The ambassador said that he also grew up in a rural background. He added that most Sri Lankans benefited greatly through free education – from the kindergarten to the university level - which has given opportunities for the best and the brightest to excel.

Michael Gaw, president of the Harvard Club, thanked the ambassador and his embassy staff for organizing the event and introducing them to the “beautiful island” of Sri Lanka. Several members of the audience said they have visited and worked in Sri Lanka and still have fond memories of its hospitable people and spicy food. President Gaw expressed his gratitude to Dr. Mendis for giving a copy of his book, “Glocalization: The Human Side of Globalization as If the Washington Consensus Mattered,” to over fifty Harvard alumni who attended the holiday benefit. The British-born Sri Lankan science-fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke has written the Foreword (click here - www.patrickmendis.com) to his book, from which proceeds of the sales Dr. Mendis has established tsunami scholarships, a peace prize, and a micro-loans program in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Mendis is a Sri Lankan-born American citizen who served in the U.S. State Department as a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental, and Scientific Affairs (OES) and the secretariat director of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) under U.S. Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell. He is an alumnus of the John F. Kennedy School of Government and serving as an advisor at Harvard University.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

30 November 2007

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