‘Gandhi’s teachings helped Obama shape his life’

WASHINGTON: Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography and his teachings on social justice through non-violence have helped US President Barack Obama shape his life, a senior US official has said.

“Barack Obama, first African-American President and a student of those principles, identifies Gandhi’s autobiography and Taylor Branch’s terrific three-part biography of (Martin Luther) King as works that helped shape him,” said Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.

“The President has repeatedly noted that Gandhi and King were among his heroes,” he said while delivering the 27th Annual Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Lecture at San Diego State University in California.

Earlier this month, Blake had said, Washington was abuzz with unveiling of the new Oval Office decorations – a tradition that follows the election of each new President.

Gandhi Signatures in Different Languages

The new Oval Office rug is the centrepiece of the room, and on it President Obama had inscribed the famous Dr King mantra which reads: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’

“That same sentiment helps animate our foreign policy agenda and our strategic partnership with India. We are democratic countries founded on the principles of tolerance and pluralism, driven by optimism and knowledge-based economies,” Blake said.

Gandhi’s message, along with his philosophy and brilliant strategy of social justice through non-violence, was always consistent, he added.

“Dedicating his life to the peaceful empowerment of Indians of all backgrounds, he inspired hope and peace among many and set a powerful example for future change-makers to follow,” Obama’s point man for South and Central Asia said.

Referring to Gandhi’s statue here, he said, this is a permanent reminder of the enduring relevance of social justice in US and often invokes comparison to another great visionary.

Martin Luther King furthered the causes of peace and tolerance in US by dedicating his life to peaceful movements against segregation, discrimination and poverty, he added.

Last year, US celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr and Mrs King’s historic 1959 visit to India that in many ways inspired and invigorated the civil rights movement in the US.

King’s trip was a landmark of the Civil Rights Movement – a moment in US history that gave due reverence to the impact of one historical movement to another, a continent away, he noted.

“In his autobiography, Dr King wrote that ‘Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of non-violent social change. His wholehearted embrace of ‘Gandhian’ principles was clearly instrumental to the eventual success of the American civil rights movement,” Blake said.



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