The still, small voice of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
has defied time and has spoken through the ages, whispering
into the ears of Martin Luther King, Jr., Lech Walesa,
Cesar Chavez, and Nelson Mandela, urging them to peacefully
revolt against what was unethical and to work for what
the human spirit held to be true and right. Gandhi is
the "Most Important Peace Hero of the 20th Century"
because he taught the world that freedom from the oppressor
could be obtained through nonviolent means.
"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
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.
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
"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
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
"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 2001
Nanda, R.R. Mahatma Gandhi: A Biography. London: Oxford
Rushdie, Salman. "Mohandas Gandhi." Time Magazine:
Asia Edition 13 April 1998.
Janina DeJesus is a 17 year-old senior at Sacred Heart
Academy in New Haven, Connecticut. Janina is the Vice
President of her senior class and the Editor-in-chief
of her school newspaper. She is a volunteer at Yale New
Haven Hospital and a mentor in the Alpha program, teaching
English grammar and communication skills to inner city
underprivileged girls in her community. She is also a
student youth leader in the Philippine American Association
of Connecticut (PAAC), which works to benefit the Connecticut
community while at the same time broadening the Filipino
spectrum through traditional dances and cultural exhibits.
Janina has been a recipient of the Who's Who Among American
High School Students for three consecutive years and she
was twice awarded the First Place Superior Blue Ribbon
for Excellence in Poetry from the Association of Christian
School International Creative Writing Festival.