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Gandhi Remembered: 135th Birthday Celebrations

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November 2004
Gandhi Remembered: 135th Birthday Celebrations

"Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize Winner idolizes Mahatma Gandhi and considers him a South African. The `Mahatma' in Mohandas Gandhi was born in South Africa where he had spent twenty one years of his life, first as a barrister and then as a social reformer and social rights activist" informed Maya Raidoo, a member of the South African delegation at the 135th Birth Anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi organized by the Gandhi Foundation of USA, Atlanta, GA (GFUSA), in collaboration with various other organizations. The theme of the celebrations was "Passion and compassion of Gandhi, and the relevance of his teachings in today's world."

The event was graced by the presence of India's Ambassador to the USA, Ronen Sen, India's Consul-General, S.R. Tayal, Assistant Secretary of State Terrell Slayton; Martin Luther King III, son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ronen Sen, the Indian Ambassador expressed his appreciation and recognition of the work done by GFUSA, National Park Service, and the King Center. He informed about the installation of a Gandhi Statue, in Houston, on October 2. In his speech he mentioned that Gandhi's doctrines had a great influence on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in USA, Lech Walesa in Poland and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. He referred to the famous historical Dandi March where Gandhi and seventy volunteers had marched from Ahmedabad to Dandi to protest against the salt tax by the British Government. The march electrified and galvanized the Indian nation and sparked the movement for India's independence. Elaborating on the topic Ambassador Sen spoke how similarly in America, the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, the sit-ins, the Peace March in Salem, Alabama etc. based on Gandhi's techniques of non-violence and peaceful non-cooperation, emboldened and solidified the black minority and helped launch the Civil Rights Movement .It resulted in the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, a significant step in improving race relations, equality and justice.

Ambassador Ronen Sen then presented the annual Gandhi Foundation of USA Awards. The Gandhi Peace Award was presented to Coretta Scott King, founder of the King Center. It was accepted on her behalf by her son, Martin Luther King III. He spoke about his father's respect for Gandhi and related that as a child growing up in the King household, Gandhi's picture hung on the wall over the dinner table-a daily source of inspiration.

The Gandhi Humanitarian Award was presented to President of the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, Dr. G.V.Raghu and Mrs.Geetha Raghu. The Gandhi Service Award was presented to Mr. Bill Bolling, founder of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The Gandhi Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Rev. Heslip `Happy' Lee, a retired Baptist minister and a colleague of Martin Luther King. The evening concluded with the singing of `Raghupati Raghav', Gandhiji's favorite prayer.

- Mahadev Desai


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