Art of Living Foundation Celebrates 25 Years by Honoring “Heroes of Humanity”
Is a "Violence-Free, Stress-Free America" possible? Thousands of people across the country are moving toward such a vision, inspired by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of The Art of Living Foundation. The initiative is a collaborative effort driven by the belief that individuals, through their words and actions, are responsible for creating the kind of world in which they want to live.
To celebrate 25 years of its service in the U.S., the Foundation launched a "Heroes of Humanity" event in 30 cities across the country, including Atlanta. The local chapter organized a unique celebration on February 25th that brought together Georgia's distinct ethnic, religious and cultural communities.
The evening began with congratulatory letters and proclamations from the offices of Congressman John Lewis, Mayor Shirley Franklin, and Commissioner Robb Pitts of Fulton County. The event was designed to honour local citizens and institutions who exemplify a dedication to uplifting human values. The Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Award for Uplifting Human Values was presented to the Atlanta Urban League and to Usher's New Look Foundation. The Atlanta Urban League is the nation's oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Usher's New Look Foundation responded to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina by leading a "Hoops for the Homeless" celebrity basketball event in Atlanta that raised $78,000. Sharon Kelley from the Atlanta Urban League noted, "I am encouraged from this experience with the Art of Living and will make a personal effort to show kindness and consideration to society."
The audience rose in standing ovation after the melodious Voices of Hillside from Hillside Chapel and Truth Center led everyone in song. Talented youth performers from Nritya Sankalpa School of Bharatanatyam showcased the grace and beauty of one of India's ancient art forms.
Gregory Pridgeon, Chief of Staff at the Office of Mayor Shirley Franklin, said, "I think this program has brought different parts of our community together. It has stressed peace, it has stressed cohesiveness, and unity, and we've had organizations that show how each individual group can do things to make our community a better place."
In addition to the awards presentation, Achieve Academy Middle School, F. L. Stanton Elementary School, and the Montessori School of Alpharetta were recognized for their participation in the Foundation's "Kids for Kids" Human Values Program. As a part of this program, students have been performing "random acts of kindness" at school, at home and in the community, and have begun to understand and experience the impact of their actions in these different areas of their life. Over 5,000 youth are participating in the program in 33 schools across the nation.
With his dynamic and energized introduction to the youth awards, Chief guest Ron Clark, founder of the Ron Clark Academy and inspiration for the film "The Ron Clark Story" reminded the audience why he was named Disney Teacher of the Year in 2000. Sharing enthusiasm about the event, he said, "As a teacher my main objective is to try to create global citizens. I want kids to have an appreciation of other nations, cultures and religions. And the Art of Living Foundation is doing just that. They're pulling people together from all over the world. They are spreading peace, hope and the ideal that we all can live together, and if we have a global focus then we can achieve anything."
Abhay Joshi, a teacher at the Foundation and the emcee for the evening, led the about 200 attendees through a guided meditation. Later he said, "The concept of ‘one world family' needs to reach every home so that we can see a violence free society, a disease free body, a quiver free breath, a confusion free mind, an inhibition free intellect, a trauma free memory, and an ego that encompasses all. This will bring about a sorrow free soul."
Jared McKinley, outreach coordinator for Congressman John Lewis of Georgia's 4th District, reflected the sentiments of many as the evening ended, "I think this was an absolutely wonderful and inspiring event. I think if my boss were here, he would have tears in his eyes. Congressman Lewis believes in the beloved community and I think this organization further emphasized it."
McKinley also served as a ceremonial judge for the humanitarian awards along with Ron Clark, Mary Dean Harvey (Director of Division of Family and Children Services for the Georgia Department of Human Resources) and Satyan Parthasarathy (Art of Living teacher).
The Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) is a non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization active in over 140 countries. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is an internationally revered spiritual leader and humanitarian, nominated multiple times for the Nobel Peace prize. It is estimated that he has reached over 300 million people in only 25 years with his commitment to creating a "violence-free, stress-free" society for all.
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