Last week, I lauded Rafiullah Kakar, Baluchistan’s first Rhodes Scholar in 40 years, and argued that his trajectory shows the value of offering deserving students from the developing world the opportunity to study in the United States. Indeed, such programs tend to pay higher dividends than many of the multi-billion dollar follies in which the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) engage.
One commenter disagreed, noting that Muslim Brother Sayyid Qutb, Egyptian dictator Mohamed Morsi, Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh, and Cambodian madman Pol Pot had each studied in the West. One could also add Bashar al-Assad to the list.
In response, Joe Dondelinger, Rafi’s adviser in South Dakota and his recommender for the Rhodes, writes in:
My colleague Danielle Pletka alerted me to this article, which truly is a rare good news story out of Pakistan:
Rafiullah Kakar, 23, is all set to live “a dream come true”. He is the 2013 Rhodes Scholar for Pakistan… Kakar does not belong to a feudal family. He grew up in one of the most hostile and backward regions of Pakistan and no one had gone to college in his family before him. His transformation from a boy who did not learn Urdu until the seventh grade to a Rhodes Scholar is a story of hard work, family support, perseverance and the pursuit of personal ambition.
The whole news report is worth reading. Baluchistan is one of the most backward areas of Pakistan and Iran (for history buffs, about five years ago I did a thumbnail history of Baluchistan, here), and Pakistan is a society where elite and family connections often trump talent. American politicians may quip that it takes a village, but government alone will never supplant hard work and individual aptitude, nor does progress occur when it dampens rather than promotes rewards inherent in personal ambition.