THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2nd, 2003 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE YOUNG
INDIA PAYS TRIBUTE TO MAHATMA GANDHI ON HIS 134TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY WITH SPEAKING
EVENT CAPITOL HILL
Young India held a Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on the 134th anniversary of his birth. The event, titled "A Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi: A Call To Action!", on Capitol Hill featured US Congressmen John Lewis and Joe Wilson, Member of Parliament from India, Hon'able Mani Shankar Aiyar , Dr. Douglas Johnston, President of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, and Mr. Rohit Tripathi, founder of Young India. The speakers came together to reflect upon Gandhi's teachings and the inspiration they had found in his actions and Non-Violent method of direct action.
The evening began with a rousing rendition of Vaishav Janto, the Mahatma's favorite devotional hymn, sung by Chetna Naik. She has lent her vocal skills at every Young India event for the past 4 years. To honor Gandhi's belief that true spirituality could be found in the scriptures of any religion, an all-religion prayer convocation drew from the Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Quran, the Holy Bible, and the Old Testament to demonstrate the peace and love which all religions teach.
The speaking portion of the event began with moderator, Jigar Champaneria, calling upon the audience to not simply celebrate Gandhi's life and accomplishments, but to find ways in which his methods could be utilized in today's world. The moderator provided the example of the upcoming elections in 2004 of the United States President as well as the Lok Sabha in India.
Congressman Joe Wilson (R, SC), co-chair of the 134 member House India Caucus welcomed the audience to the program with an acknowledgement of Gandhi's legacy and of the importance of Indian-Americans to America. He also welcomed the speakers for the evening.
Congressman John Lewis (D, GA), brought great experience with him to the podium. As a student leader in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, he had learned greatly from Mahatma Gandhi as well as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lewis remarked, "Gandhi, through his life and his actions, taught us the oneness of the human family" and, "Gandhi's teachings helped us to not just liberate a people, but to liberate a nation". His rousing speech recalled the fire in his actions during his youth and the urgency of success with the Civil Rights Movement.
The Hon'able Mani Shankar Aiyar, Member of Parliament, traveled from India and his constituency in Tamil Nadu to speak about the nature of Gandhian democracy and the state of democracy in India today. Aiyar commented that "The only democracy which is meaningful to the people is a grassroots democracy." Aiyar reflected upon the fact that India had gone from having less than 10,000 elected representatives to having over 3 million elected representatives today, most of which are at the village level, and 1 million of whom are women. Aiyar noted, "The inspiration for all of this is Gandhi" and "To be a true democracy we'll have to be a Gandhian Democracy."
Dr. Douglas Johnston brought with him credentials including founding the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy and recent reconciliation efforts in Sudan and Kashmir. Dr. Johnston spoke of the concept of Servant Leadership, whereby a person should aim to lead not for the sake of leading, but for the sake of serving the people. In so doing, the leader would open up the democratic process to the people, regardless of the actual outcome of a political decision. Dr. Johnston commented, "The ultimate result of the Servant Leader may disappoint those he was working with, nonetheless, they will feel they have been heard."
Mr. Rohit Tripathi, founder of Young India, spoke of one of the most important aspects of the Gandhian methodology, that of Perseverance. Drawing analogy to Gandhi's Direct Action method, Mr. Tripathi recalled that when Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes, Mr. Bannister had said that the man who wins is the one who continues the longest after the pain begins. In that respect, Mr. Tripathi emphasized the need to persevere through the hard times that may be faced during a Direct Action campaign. The greatest rewards would come to those who confront such times with moral strength to reach the goal.
The evening ended with a short question and answer session with the speakers as well as individual discussions in an informal setting.
Young India is an endeavor to make truly participatory and representative
democracy the foundation of every political system. For more information about
Young India please refer to http://www.yidream.org