November 2013

Capstone October 2012 Howard University  

King-Ghandi Lecture Pays Tribute to Nonviolent Principles

By Brittany Jett, senior, School of Communications; intern, Office of University Communications
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Nirupama Rao
Rao delivered a captivating lecture on the nonviolent strategies that Ghandi and King subscribed to. (Photos by Justin D. Knight)

Nirupama Rao, the former Indian Ambassador to the U.S., delivered a captivating lecture on Howard’s campus last month in honor of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. The lecture, “Gandhi for our Century: the Message Enduring,” was based on the nonviolent strategies that each man used to inspire civil rights struggles that transformed the world.

“The influence of Gandhi has by no means ceased his political action strategy and the well-planned and executed application of nonviolence continues to inspire struggles across the world,” Rao said.

Rao cited the interconnectedness of King and Gandhi through stories about Gandhi’s impact on the historic 1963 March on Washington as well as India’s struggles for freedom and the Montgomery bus boycotts.

"...both were worldwide leaders, and students will appreciate that more after hearing the lecture."

The lecture is based on the significance of and similarities of the two leaders. Even though they never met, they were inspired and driven by the same beliefs. Gandhi’s philosophy of peace, truth and “Ahimsa” (nonviolence) was adapted by King for the U.S. civil rights movement.

"The interconnected existence between African-American communities in the U.S. and the people of India to end discrimination and domination by one race against another makes for a fascinating and compelling history," Rao said.

According to Alvin Thornton, Ph.D., professor of political science, the lecture is important for students to witness because it provides them with an even deeper appreciation for the grounds they walk on today at Howard University.

“Students have a one track mind of King being a civil rights activist and Gandhi being a peace activist but both were worldwide leaders, and students will appreciate that more after hearing the lecture,” Thornton said.

The Howard University Board of Trustees originally established the Gandhi Memorial Lecture in 1958, which evolved into the Martin Luther King-Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Lecture. In 1966, King delivered the lecture at Howard; and in 2010, Gandhi’s grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi gave the lecture.

When King visited Howard, he took the “Long Walk,” a symbolic representation of the legacy of Howard University which included a north-south route between the main building in which the University was founded and Clark Hall (which was a men's dormitory). King took the walk from the flagpole to Founders Library and, following the lecture, Rao and visitors, faculty and students took the same walk to an interactive exhibit depicting the intersection of the lives and works of Gandhi and King, which was unveiled in the Blackburn Center.

Following the lecture, Thornton, Rao and Wayne A.I. Frederick, M.D., interim president of Howard, took the symbolic “Long Walk” on the main campus.

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