Sept. 23 deserves a special place in the hearts of the Saudi people. That day in 1932 their country was established, in a world far different from the one we see today. It was founded at the height of empires and colonialism, during the depths of the Great Depression, when Hitler and his National Socialist Party was on the verge of assuming power in Germany, and when Stalin was on his way to absolute power in Russia. In 1932, the foreshadowing of World War II was starting to manifest itself in northeast Asia, with Japan conquests of Chinese Manchuria. In the year of our first Saudi National Day, authoritarian powers were beginning their bids for global domination. In our region, France was in Morocco, Algeria and the Levant, Italy was in Libya, Somalia, and Eritrea, and Britain was in Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq.
When we see what has emerged since Sept. 23, 1932, it is quite remarkable to see how far we have come in our homeland. Let’s honor our National Day by looking at the path we have traveled, how the world has changed, and where we find ourselves today. The Kingdom, founded by King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, has outlived Bolshevik Russia, Hitler’s supposed 1,000-year Reich, the British Empire, and the Cold War. Very few people, if any, at the time of our first National Day would have taken that bet. In the 21st century, Saudi Arabia finds itself at the forefront of the global community, with a significant presence in the region and beyond.
If we had told our ancestors then what we would be today, they would have found it hard to believe. Riyadh went from a provincial capital to a bustling metropolis with global stature. King Abdul Aziz had his first meeting with the US president on a naval vessel to begin Saudi-American relations. Now the US president visits Riyadh, sometimes on their first overseas trip, as partners of the highest strategic order, for both sides.
Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to sign the UN Charter in the final months of World War II. One of the largest companies the world has ever seen, Saudi Aramco, is just one of the fruits of this relationship that has developed since 1932. Saudi Arabia, which covers most of the Arabian peninsula, has one of the richest civilizations mankind has ever known: The legacy of our vast region from its ancient civilizations such as the Kingdom of Dadan, the Kingdom of Hayyan (600-150 B.C.), the Kingdom of the Nabataeans (150 B.C.-106 A.D.), the First and Second Himyarite Kingdoms (110 B.C.-527 A.D.) and the Kingdom of Kinda (200 B.C.-633 A.D.), through to the emergence of the Islamic civilizations.
People from all over the world work in the Kingdom in highly skilled professions, for salaries that sometimes exceed what they can make in their home countries. We are emerging as a major source of manufacturing and petrochemicals. We began this journey on Sept. 23, 1932.
Today, we have a region of instability and conflict, in some cases submerged in extreme pain, despair, sadism and death. Saudi Arabia stands at the forefront against belligerent agitators who offer suffering and death to the region’s peoples. The Kingdom is at the forefront of humanity, partnered with countries that are among the most important in today’s geopolitical order.
Under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia is vaulting into the 21st century under Vision 2030. Today, we are the bridge from Europe to the Middle East and Asia. The Kingdom on our 89th National Day would not be familiar to our ancestors.
What we have today comes with great responsibility, and with awareness of who we are, where we have come from, and where we can be. This must be impressed upon Saudi youth. The French Emperor Napoleon once said: “History shows us that the fate of a nation is sometimes subject to one day.” He was right. Let’s be responsible and able to face the challenges by working hard for the homeland, where every citizen is a solder. “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” President John F. said Kennedy in his inaugural address in 1961.
Today, we honor our National Day, Prophet Muhammad, the holy mosques of Makkah and Madinah, our forefathers and ancestors, King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, our brave soldiers fighting in Yemen for our peace and security, members of the armed forces and National Guard, and our parents. We do that by never forgetting where we have come from, where we are today, and the possibilities for our future if we honor and respect our past.
Faisal Al-Shammeri is a political analyst. Twitter: @Mr_Alshammeri