Pallam Raju has a daunting job.
In India, he oversees the education of 230 million children.
Raju, 50, also oversees higher education as the minister of human resource development, a position to which he was appointed in October.
On Thursday, he described the challenges of his job at the commencement ceremony for the Fox School of Business at Temple University.
Raju, who earned his master's of business administration degree at Temple in 1986, had an honorary doctor of humane letters conferred upon him earlier in the day at the university's main commencement ceremony.
More than 9,000 students made up the largest graduating class in Temple's history. Speakers included university president Neil D. Theobald, Faculty Senate president Joan P. Shapiro, student speaker Joseph B. Stoney, and two trustees: John Campolongo, president of Temple's Alumni Association, and Bill Cosby, probably the school's most famous alumnus.
In an interview after his speech, Raju recalled how he interpreted for the students the concept of dharma in the context of business and work.
In the United States, he said, he learned the ethic of hard work. He said hard work should be combined with dharma, which he described as "doing the right thing no matter what your role."
Otherwise, he said, one can work hard for the wrong thing.
Raju was born in India to a political family. He came to Philadelphia to study business, and went on to work in the United States and Norway for technology companies.
His career in Oslo was cut short when his father suffered a stroke in 1988.
Raju said he returned to India that year and was asked by then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to run for a seat in Parliament held previously by Raju's father.
He won his election in 1989 and, at 27, he was the youngest member of the Lok Sabha, the lower house.
Raju has since served as minister of state for defense. Now his portfolio includes education at a monumental time in Indian history.
In 2010, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act took effect. It is as sweeping as it sounds, as the act makes education a fundamental right for children 6 to 14.
As a result, about 96 percent of children in that age group are in school, Raju said. Before the act, he estimated, the rate was 50 percent to 60 percent.
With India's youth on an expanded educational path, Raju said, one of the great challenges is to make sure they enter the workforce skilled and "industry-ready."
Raju said the American-style community college would be an ideal fit for quickly training new workers.
Besides participating in Temple's commencements, Raju visited Washington and met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
On Thursday evening, he left Philadelphia and was traveling to Princeton, New York City, and Boston with his wife and son. A daughter is attending college in Ireland.
Remembering his days as a Temple student, Raju said: "Every day was special," and the university was "very wonderful and enabling."
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