Arun Gandhi is fighting two battles: laryngitis and world peace. In a day or so, he said he will overcome the first. But the latter is a work-in-progress.
In an empowering speech to about 100 attentive listeners, the grandson of Indian civil disobedience leader Mahatma Gandhi gave a speech entitled “Gandhi’s Lessons on Racial Harmony” on Wednesday in Mitten Hall.
The Main Campus Program Board and the Indian Student Association sponsored the speech.
MCPB coordinator Kiersten Feeney said having Gandhi speak at the university would go well with Temple’s Respect Week, held from Feb. 7 to 14.
“It is very important that we understand respect,” Gandhi said. “We can’t practice it for a week or year, but we must make it become a part of our lives. More than that, we must respect the connection we have with all human beings and all of creation.”
Gandhi began the speech with a story describing the first time he was exposed to his grandfather’s teachings.
“When I was 10 years old and living in South Africa, I was beat up by a white boy because I was too black, and beat up by a black boy because I was too white,” he said. “I started doing exercises to build my muscles so I could stand up for myself, and that was when my parents sent me to live with grandfather in India.”
Gandhi’s grandfather taught him not to respond to his anger violently because violence is not the right way of seeking justice. Instead, he told his grandson to seek justice through nonviolent means.
“When I learned this valuable lesson, I realized that violence makes relationships between people negative,” he said. “That’s why relationships often break apart.”
In order to maintain positive relationships between people and the world, there are four lessons to be learned, according to Gandhi. These lessons are respect, understanding, acceptance and appreciation. Knowing these lessons, he said, will stop people from responding to anger in a violent way.
“We are here to fulfill a purpose,” he said, “and unfortunately, because of our lifestyles and ignorance, we do not know this purpose. If we learn to respect, understand, accept and appreciate, it is then that we will understand this purpose – and each other.”
Gandhi passionately described violence in two ways – physical violence and passive violence. Passive violence is hurting people through discrimination, hate, looking down on people and wasting natural resources, he said.
“If we throw away the world’s natural resources, that is violence against nature,” Gandhi said. “And if we throw away these resources, we are committing violence against humanity, because there are people who don’t have access to these resources.”
He also added that passive violence fuels the fire of physical violence and this fuel supply must be cut off.
One student said he came to hear Gandhi speak he thought it sounded more interesting than typical campus activities.
“I’m not much for drinking and going to frat parties,” said junior psychology major Dave Adamusko. “This is the closest I’ll ever come to knowing Gandhi.”
Ghandi then changed the direction of the speech and when he was asked what he would say if left alone in a room with President Bush for 10 minutes, Gandhi said: “First I would tell him that we need to stop the wars. We have shown the world that we are a superpower, now let us show the world our moral strength. Let us show the world that we can seek an end through nonviolence.”
“If we keep peace locked up in our hearts, it will perish forever,” he said in his concluding statement. “But if we let it interact with everyone, we will create peace. My grandfather gave this to me, and now I am giving it to you.”
Nina M. Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org