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Giriraj Rao Receives Governor’s Award in Humanities

June 2007
Giriraj Rao Receives Governor’s Award in Humanities

Giriraj Rao, co-founder and executive director of Gandhi Foundation U.S.A., was among the 10 Georgia individuals who were honored by Governor Sonny Purdue, at a dignified and impressive 22nd Governor's Awards in the Humanities, at the luncheon ceremony organized by Georgia Humanities Council (GHC) on May 10, 2007. Each spring the Georgia Humanities Council honors the "humanities heroes" of Georgia. They are presented to individuals and organizations who build community, character and citizenship through their efforts in humanities education.

The celebrations at the Old Georgia Railroad Depot was well attended by the members of the board of the Gandhi Foundation of USA, as welll as family and friends of Mr. Rao.

Dr. Jamil Zainaldin, president of GHC, welcomed all..Following a moving invocation prayer by Dr. Robert Franklin, Jr., President-Elect, Morehouse College, Dr. Zainaldin, spoke about the mission of the GHC. Mr. Joey Loudermilk, Executive Vice-President, AFLAC and Co-Chair, 2007 Governor's Awards in the Humanities introduced Governor Sonny Purdue.

Purdue said, "The Awards in Humanities affords an opportunity to look back at history and learn about social issues, progress in technology, spread of religion, politics and more. History and humanities help us learn about ourselves; about the nature of man, about love, and unfortunately, about wars too. We can learn of the success and mistakes of those who went before us. The people we honor today symbolize the triumph of human spirit. These heroes preserve that spirit with their individual efforts. They pass along old stories and make new stories as they move on. They remind us where we come from and inspire us to choose where we may go, based on their experiences. Our state is richer because of their efforts and accomplishments."

Purdue then presented specially designed medallions to the awardees. Born in Madras (now Chennai), Mr. Rao graduated from the University of Madras with B.Sc. and M.Sc. Degree in Biochemistry in 1946 and M.S. Degree in Food Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. While a student in India, he participated in the "Quit India" campaign of Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1950 Rao immigrated to the United States, and for 32 years was the principal investigator in the Corporate Research and Development at the Coca Cola Company, where he retired in 1986.

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He has spent many years of his life in educating youth and adults in and around Atlanta and across the United States about the life and philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Under his leadership, the Gandhi Foundation hosts many cultural lectures and extended programs about Indian people and culture. He is responsible for working with Mrs. Coretta Scott King to refurbish the Gandhi Room in the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and has led a national task force for installing the Gandhi statue at the Martin Luther King National Historic Site.

He pioneered the establishment of the Gandhi Room at the India Cultural and Religious Center in Smyrna and made possible the installation of an exhibition on the life of Gandhi at the Georgia State Capitol. He was the Executive Vice-President of IACA (1986) and Chairman of the Board (1989), President of Asia-Pacific American Council of Georgia, APAC (1989), trustee of the National Federation of Indian Associations, (1992), in charge of Gandhi projects in the US.

He had the privilege and honor to be a part of the delegation that attended the celebration of life ceremony of Coretta Scott King. Rao's immense contribution in building bridges was recognized by The Friends of Sweet Auburn with an Award during the "Legends, Heroes and Heroines" recognition luncheon on May 17, 2006.

"Mr. Rao has worked tirelessly to uphold our history and heritage," said Gov. Perdue. "I salute all the winners for their efforts to promote the humanities in Georgia."

~ Mahadev Desai


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