“If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?” That was the question a student from Arlington, Virginia asked President Obama when he visited her school last month.
The president’s answer? Indian independence and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi. “He’s somebody I find a lot of inspiration in. He inspired Dr. (Martin Luther) King with his message of nonviolence,” and “ended up doing so much and changed the world just by the power of his ethics,” Obama said.
Today President Obama recognized the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, saying Americans owe him “an enormous measure of gratitude,” including his influence on Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. Today’s United States “has its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent social action movement for Indian independence which he led,” Obama said.
The occasion offers a moment for Americans to join with Indians in celebrating his life, and a time “to reflect on his message of non-violence, which continues to inspire people and political movements across the globe,” the president said.
When President Obama was Senator Obama from Illinois, just a short year ago, he included Gandhi in his “wall of heroes” gallery of photographs in his Senate office. The historic photo of Gandhi sitting at his spinning wheel hung among those of former U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, Dr. King, and the 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Alabama.
Reflecting it is the 140th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, I can’t help but remember renowned physicist Albert Einstein, himself a big Gandhi fan, who said: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.”