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Obama, enroute to Denmark, hails Mahatma Gandhi


(UPDATE: 12:44 a.m. Friday. President Obama concluded his remarks to the Olympic selection committee, which intends to vote on the final site -- Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo -- Friday afternoon. The announced presidential plans are for Obama and his wife to be in the air, presumably enroute back to Washington, when the vote comes.)

Heading off for Copenhagen to do what he loves best -- campaign -- President Obama issued a special message (see full text below) Thursday evening to commemorate the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Indian independence and civil rights leader, credited as modern history's foremost proponent of nonviolence and mass civil disobedience, would have been 140 on Friday.

Born in the 19th century, Gandhi was a 20th century spiritual pioneer credited with inspiring many similar individuals and movements around the world, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil rights pioneer, who was also assassinated.

Unlike some others who accomplished far less in more modern times, Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Strolling in his garden, Gandhi was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948, by a fellow Hindu, who was later executed with an accomplice. In a nationwide radio address the day of Gandhi's death, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said:

Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more.

Obama is flying overnight tonight to Copenhagen to join his wife Michelle. They will lobby the International Olympic Committee to pick Chicago for the 2016 Summer Games in a Friday afternoon vote. Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo are also candidates.

Here is Obama's Gandhi statement, as provided by the White House, including a confusing passage that could appear to imply Dr. King met with Gandhi in 1959, 11 years after his death:

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Statement by President Obama on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary

On behalf of the American people, I want to express appreciation for the life and lessons of Mahatma Gandhi on the anniversary of his birth. This is an important moment to reflect on his message of non-violence, which continues to inspire people and political movements across the globe.

We join the people of India in celebrating this great soul who lived a life dedicated to the cause of advancing justice, showing tolerance to all, and creating change through non-violent resistance.

Americans owe an enormous measure of gratitude to the Mahatma. His teachings and ideals, shared with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his 1959 pilgrimage to India, transformed American society through our civil rights movement. The America of today has its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent social action movement for Indian independence which he led.

Tomorrow, as we remember the Mahatma on his birthday, we must renew our commitment to live his ideals and to celebrate the dignity of all human beings.   ###

Photo: Associated Press
Comments () | Archives (7)

The comments to this entry are closed.

People of America wake up and see what the feds are setting us up for, we need to be exercising our rights or we will lose them.
Study what Gandhi did and why.
Look at what the United States of America used to be and what it is becomming.
Think about the basic principles of freedom and then look around you.
Think and Act before it is too late.

Dr. King met Mahatma's Family in 1959. King Jr was introduced to Gandhi through Thurman's missionary work. Gandhi had many friends as Muslim and Christian. Gandhi found art of non violence through Hindu, Muslim, Christian ideals; unlike todays Jihad's who use religion as a base for violence.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did make the trip to India in 1959 and met followers of Gandhi. He never met Gandhi in person. The White House statement just states that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made a trip in 1959 that inspired him with Gandhi's teaching.


I am from India, living in the US, and studied Gandhi all my life. The US of today with President Obama at it's helm, is a lot more aligned with Gandhi and his ideals than Bush or any of the Republican (or even some Democratic) Presidents before him.

So Richard, please do not compare what you and the other folks (who voted for the Republican Party and lost the election) are feeling to what 'Gandhi did'. Understand your history. Your USA used to be in the late 1800s till mid 1900s, a place where a black man could be strung up like a dog if he walked into the wrong crowd. You longing for THAT USA? So things changed for the better, and I hope they continue to evolve. What rights do you want to exercise? Carry guns in a public setting? Sure - who's stopping you? I will come with a flame thrower next time, and then you can top me with something nastier. Eye for an eye makes the whole world blind - who said that?

The Feds (as you so nicely put, was the same word found scrawled on that murdered census worker) are not setting us up for anything. If anything I trust this Justice Dept more than anything else I have seen in a long long time. I worry more about capitalist corporations with nobody to regulate them running roughshod over people than a Govt by the people (atleast 54% of us).

So - sure watch out for your government's actions, and protest if you didn't like something - but no need to go all paranoid. This is a Democracy, and your chance will come.

I didn't think the Bush era will ever end, but end, it did.

Anil Pillai- You make good point. Moreover, you write well. I get gelous of people who can write well. It is amazing how you put all that thought together in few paragraphs.

May be you can give me a little advice on how to improve my writing. I am learning english as a second language.l'll check back later.

It is amazing that tin foilers can come to a story like this one to share their delusions of paranoia with us. I am a first generation Indian American and my maternal grandfather actually worked with the Mahatma and was beaten and jailed multiple times. I have found that it is best to temper non violence with a big Roosevelt stick. This is why I have a complete collection of assault rifles. AR 15, AK 47, Yugo SKS with a grenade launcher.

Our Hindu temple was burned in the after math of 9-11 and if someone tries something like that with my home the next time there is a terrorist attack I will call the police first and foremost and in the time it takes for them to arrive if my family is in any danger I will not hesitate to waste the perps on the spot. This is my more tempered version of non violence.

Jay Ohm

"The America of today has its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent social action movement...."

Really, Mr. Obama? I kind of thought our roots, a revolution seeking freedom and protection from big government, long preceded Gandhi.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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