Gandhi's grandson speaks at conference
On Friday October 19, 2007, members of the Student Peace Alliance from across the country gathered in Levin Ballroom to listen to a speech by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.
Aaron Voldman, 09, executive director of the Student Peace Alliance, introduced Gandhi as the conferences first speaker.
Gandhi started his speech by discussing his grandfathers belief that violence has seeped so deep into [the] human psyche that our speech and attitudes have become violent.
Arun Gandhi emphasized the importance of replacing our culture of violence with a culture of nonviolence. He recalled how he grew up believing that nonviolence is the absence of violence and mentioned how his grandfather opened [his] eyes one day by teaching him a lesson. Gandhi recalled examining a three inch long pencil, thinking I deserve a better pencil, and proceeding to throw it away, convinced that his grandfather would simply give him another. However, Mahatma Gandhi questioned him extensively and made him go search for the pencil.
Here, he learned two lessons which he shared with the conference attendees. First, he learned that people perform violence against nature when they use excessive amounts of natural resources. Secondly, he learned that people over consume resources if they buy in bulk, thereby depriving other people of these natural resources.
Gandhi then explained how less than 10 percent of the world can live affluently. He ascertained that the 90 percent will turn into terrorists if they are ignored, and urged everyone to become conscious of this.
Gandhi warned, we cannot create an island of security in this part of the world, referencing the reality that we are all interconnected, interrelated and interdependent. He stated that our security depends on the welfare of the whole world.
Later on, Gandhi said that a competitive attitude is the first seed of selfishness we plant in our children.
He explained how since the success of one person inevitably prevents that of so many others, people must be careful to create the type of relationships [that are] based on acceptance, understanding, and respect.
Gandhi stressed the importance of respect, stating that he emphasize[s] respect deliberately because he is against the word tolerance.
Gandhi warned against the use of labels to classify others, explaining that labels build a wall, and every wall we build is a potential for conflict.
Gandhi stated that he believes this generation is a Generation P that works for and long[s] for peace. He called todays youth the potential leaders of the world [who] must decide whether to save the world from destruction.
Gandhi referred to himself as a farmer, explaining his desire to plant seeds in [students] mind[s] so that there will one day be a wonderful crop of peacemakers.
Gandhi explained his hopes that this wont be the last conference. He expressed his desire for another conference next year in New York which could boast 3,000 attendees, rather than 300, urging the attendees to inspire ten other people to come to next years conference.
To conclude his presentation, Gandhi shared a story about an ancient Indian king who sought the meaning of peace and visited an old sage to discover the answer. The king received a grain of wheat, yet not understanding, he simply placed the grain in a box. Later on, the sage explained that if he keeps the grain in the box, nothing will happen. But if he puts it in the sun, it will grow. Gandhi stated that this is the meaning of peace. Peace will perish with you if you lock it up inside of you and hide it from the rest of the world.
A question and answer session followed Gandhis speech. Gandhi explained how to counter other apathy, saying, we may not be able to change the whole world but we can change ourselves and the people around us.
Gandhi called a college campus a microcosm of the world with the purpose of education as a means to enlighten, beyond the simple textbook education. He said that we must learn from our experiences and real educationwidens your horizons.
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