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"I am spinning the destiny of India," he said, but he has woven much more into the blanket of peace. Hundreds of others, inspired by his faith and dedication, would lead uprisings of civil disobedience - revolutions that would shake history and upturn mainstream opinions: the Civil Rights movement, Solidarity, the United Farm Worker's hunger strike, and anti-apartheid. But before that, there was merely the man, Gandhi.
An advocate of simplicity, he is etched into our minds as a tiny figure, rich of terra-cotta color, seemingly fragile and breakable, with a delicate frame balanced upon his nose, dressed in only a white loincloth, a bamboo stick in his hand - the Moses of India, the peace leader of the twentieth century, a man who would come to believe Henry Ward Beecher's axiom: "Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation." His compassion would not only affect the lives of his Indian brethren but also leaders around the world, and from one generation to the next.
Gandhi's revolution began on a train to South Africa. There, in a first-class compartment, he tasted the bitterness of racial discrimination. Ordered to move to the "colored" section of the train, he refused and was removed. This humiliation gave him the will to fight for social justice. In 1906, he discovered passive resistance, which would secure political rights through non-violent demonstrations proclaiming peace and love. Knowing how powerful his message was, Gandhi devoted himself to Indian self-rule, hind swaraj, which meant much more than mere independence from Britain; it became a symbol of individuality, self-reliance, and social justice.
Through the next thirty-three years, Gandhi led moral crusades against the all-encompassing British Raj. His gentle influence over the Indian people and his pacifist ideals of mass non-cooperation caused British officials to negotiate with him though he held no formal office nor title, save the one given to him by the people - Mahatma, or Great Soul.
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He pursued the aspirations of human equality, human dignity, self-respect, freedom from exploitation, injustice, and violence. Gandhi taught that it was indeed possible to have peace on earth if one could settle differences with a handshake instead of a gunshot. Gandhi's impact on India as well other countries around the world spanned over years and oceans, transcending what was known about freedom and equality.
"The name Mahatma Gandhi has become synonymous with right and justice," spoke Haile Selassie. "Towards this end it has become an inspiration to millions of oppressed people and has kindled the light of liberty. Today, when world peace is threatened with atomic and nuclear weapons capable of annihilating the human race, Mahatma Gandhi's teachings of love and truth and of respect for others' rights have become even more meaningful than at any other time."
They will forever call him a hero, a modern-day saint, a legend, an icon, a present-day Joan of Arc or St. Francis of Assisi, but Gandhi was simply doing what he felt needed to be done. That is the mark of a true leader - someone who sees beyond what is there and looks to improve it for not only his betterment, but for everyone else's as well. He served as the inspiration to some of recent history's most revered and respected revolutionaries, but one does not need to be a national hero to appreciate the values and intrinsic rights that he advocated. One must only be fearless against what seems to impede his or her aspirations or rights.
"Nonviolence," said Gandhi, "is not to be used ever as the shield of the coward. It is the weapon of the brave."
What bravery lies then in the hands of those who agree to use power and supremacy to degrade one's dignity, which is perhaps the dearest of our hearts' possessions? What bravery lies then in the hands of those who agree to fight what oppresses them in a manner that involves forgiveness, peace, and love? Gandhi knew the difference. Thanks to his work and dedication to what was morally right, we now know it too.
Speak words of love and one will hear echoes. Gandhi's voice, speaking words that entailed more than just love, has been echoing through the hearts and minds of every oppressed being and has inspired the greatest of leaders and the humblest of hearts. Never does one stand so tall as when he forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury. Mahatma Gandhi, small though he was, towered above those who could not dare to be brave - the ones who hid behind a shield of control and command, of weaponry and war.
Who now shall take the shield of faith and courage, carry it into the fray, and display it as the symbol of what brotherhood should be? Who will listen to his voice in this nuclear age? I will listen, and, dear friend, you must listen as well, for an open ear is the door to an open heart. As we hear echoes of his ageless words, it is enough to know he has taught them to us so that we might someday create echoes of our own.
McGeary, Johanna. "Mohandas Gandhi." Time Magazine 31 December 1999: 118-128.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: Man of Millennium. 30 January 2000. Institute of Advanced Studies. 6 May 2001 <http://www.mkgandhi.org>.
Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service. GandhiServe. 6 May 2014
Nanda, R.R. Mahatma Gandhi: A Biography. London: Oxford UP, 2012.
Rushdie, Salman. "Mohandas Gandhi." Time Magazine: Asia Edition 13 April 1998.