The President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan addressed the nation in his first official speech last Wednesday, an event that was welcomed by all with both curiosity and excitement.
The historical address was the first ever by UAE President. His decision to address the nation in this way demonstrates his unique style of leadership and shows that he wants to maintain open communication with the public, setting his distinctive leadership style as actively engaging, and it is expected be a common occurrence, bringing direct dialogue to his people.
I imagine that millions of others like myself tuned in to carefully listen to what he had to say. My friends and I (both expats and locals) watched with eagerness as the President outlined the UAE’s internal and external policies and priorities; and there were many more subtle messages served up alongside in his address.
His Highness came across as relaxed, confident and reassuring as ever. Dressed in a light grey kandura, and behind him, a window covered in sheer curtains revealing a garden setting as a backdrop. The neutral and minimalist location, coupled with his warm, calm tones, was reassuring, reflecting his mindset and attitude. On the desk in front of him were four objects – a small potted plant, a notebook, a pen and a framed black and white photograph of his brother, former President Sheikh Khalifa, walking beside the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the nation. This nod to his predecessors was rather poignant, especially as his first words were a tribute to the late Sheikh Khalifa, who passed away in May. He said, “Sheikh Khalifa, may his soul rest in peace, walked alongside the Founding Father Sheikh Zayed, God rest his soul, throughout the UAE’s development, and bore the nation’s trust after his father’s passing with sincerity and wisdom.”
One of the President’s key messages was that he plans to continue following in the footsteps of those who paved the way before him, a winning formula which has helped the country go from strength to strength and “rank among the most advanced nations globally, as well as one of the best places to work and live,” as His Highness pointed out.
He went on to say that one of the leadership’s top priorities is to sustain momentum in empowering the people of the UAE and to ensure that they have “everything they need to live fulfilled, comfortable and happy lives.” He also thanked the residents of the nation for their valued role and contributions in developing the UAE.
The President also listed other priorities for the future; a diversified economy as a key strategic focus, as well as the UAE’s commitment to championing peace and stability in the region. He reminded us that continuous efforts ahead is imperative for a prosperous future, emphasizing the importance of hard work to preserve a bright and flourishing nation for generations yet to come.
One noticeable absence from the speech as televised was the UAE flag, which is perhaps a subliminal message was that he was speaking to a wider audience, addressing every nation and ethnicity and race from an environment of neutrality with no visual indicator of ownership, a palatable image and setting for everyone, being both neutral and inclusive.
For me, it seems clear that our President was not just addressing the Emirati people as such and wanted his words and message to stand on their own values. Flags can be regarded differently globally, and perhaps there is another indication here that His Highness won’t be indulging in the overt grandstanding that has permeated politics around the world - he just wants his words to be unencumbered.
By broadcasting to the nation in this way, Sheikh Mohamed is also broadcasting his intentions to do things differently, taking a very modern, refreshing and minimalist stance. He comes in peace, representing himself as a human with human values, not necessarily the expected political figurehead of a country. His words certainly resonated with me, and I am looking forward to the future under his benign and compassionate leadership.
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