Published 1/17/2012 in Local News
By RACHAEL GRAY
Students and speakers at Garden City Community College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day helped spread the message of civil rights and peace Monday with help from the grandson of a world-renowned political leader.
Laurie Sisk/Telegram Arun Gandhi, grandson of legendary spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, addresses a large crowd on Monday at Garden City Community College as part of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at GCCC.
Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, spoke at GCCC Monday, passing along a message of peace and non-violence. He spoke about the use of non-violence and how people should control their emotions and treat each other with respect.
Arun Gandhi talked about two types of violence, one being physical and the other being non-physical, passive violence utilized with words and actions. He said Martin Luther King Jr., who visited India prior to the civil rights movement, used non-violence to push for legal rights for blacks in the U.S. He said since the civil rights movement, Americans should push forward beyond the legal aspect of civil rights, and assimilate more as a people.
When visiting the University of Mississippi in the 1980s, Arun Gandhi said he saw black and white students sitting separately in a cafeteria. He said both groups said the other group preferred to remain segregated, so no move was made to include members of the other group. He said lack of communication often is the barrier between two groups of people who are different from one another. He said 45 years after the civil rights movement, Americans should be more integrated. “You still have the division,” he said.
Arun Gandhi said one of the major problems plaguing society today is poor relationships being built at the interpersonal and international levels. He said personal and national gain benefits the person or the country, and doesn’t help the world as a whole. “I hope people will realize building relationships on respect is much better to bring peace,” he said in a press conference before the lecture. He said U.S. foreign policy is no longer based on political motives, but now is purely economic.
He said during the press conference that the United States needs immigration reform, and needs to recognize the need for cheap, agricultural labor. “The foreign policy is based on what’s good for them. Not what is good for the world,” he said.
Arun Gandhi said that principle is the underlying principle in people — that they do what’s best for them, and not what’s best for society as a whole. As a boy, Arun Gandhi was beaten up repeatedly by both black and white youths, because he was too light to be black and to brown to be white, being of Indian heritage. He said he began to lift weights to get strong and take revenge. His parents took him on a pilgrimage to India, where he spent 18 months with his grandfather. There he learned lessons about life, peace, violence and learned how to control his anger.
Arun Gandhi said Americans do little to control anger and anger management classes should be mandatory in all schools and work environments. Before Arun Gandhi’s keynote address, students read quotes and poetry by famous black leaders and authors. The Mount Zion Church choir sang. Breanna Gross read Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise.” The GCCC Student Government Association asked her to read, and she chose Angelou because she admires her work.
Gross, a sophomore from Washington, D.C., said she enjoyed Arun Gandhi’s speech Monday. “It was very touching and warm. I really enjoyed his point of view about violence and how as a nation we should become one,” she said. Gross said Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were similar.
“(Martin Luther King Jr.) believed in non-violence, too. He was a peace activist like Gandhi. From things that I’ve read and heard and seen in movies, he was all about equality,” she said. Debra Bolton, a KSU Extension specialist and member of the Coalition of Ethnic Minority Leaders, asked Gandhi what he thought about religion and patriotism being cause for war. She asked Arun Gandhi how the nation can begin to move toward non-violence if patriotism is measured by the willingness to go to war.
“I liked his answer because he said if there’s a way we can do it little by little, each person at a time. … I think we know that already, but I think we’re never sure. … We never catch ourselves in the moment, to begin to move away (from) violence and into nonviolence,” she said.
Arun Gandhi and his wife, Sunanda, founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in 1991, after coming to the U.S. in 1987 to complete research on racism. He has spoken at hundreds of gatherings, as well as colleges and universities, in Brazil, Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Holland, Lithuania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Nicaragua and the U.S.