Each day, people around the world make choices. Those choices might be good or bad, but there is one foundation of good moral principles. Martin Luther King Jr. was an incredible man who fought peacefully for equality of all races and genders. Thanks to him, racial equality is now the law and integrated into everyday life.
While there may be other people who have worked for racial and gender equality and justice in other countries and cultures, the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi stands out as the source of inspiration for much of Dr. King’s work and belief in the power of peaceful protests.
Mahatma Gandhi, born in 1869, was one of the greatest peace activists in Indian history.
Gandhi began his quest for equality when he founded the idea of “satyagraha,” which means “truth force.” Satyagraha is the idea of marching peacefully and presenting one’s self for arrest.
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Gandhi led multiple peaceful protests, including his famous salt march during which he marched 250 miles to the sea to collect his own salt after Britain imposed a tax on salt on India.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., he used a boycott and peaceful protest to force those in power to negotiate and make a change. Eventually, the British negotiated with Gandhi and lifted the salt tax. Gandhi’s other peaceful protests include peaceful civil disobedience in Bihar, which earned him the title “Mahatma” or “Great Soul.”
Perhaps Gandhi’s most famous method of protest was his fasting. Over his lifetime, Mahatma Gandhi went on 17 different fasts, ranging from 1 day to 21 days long. His fasting persuaded many to follow him and changed many people’s lives for the better.
He fasted for many reasons, including rights for poor people, for inmate rights, for improvement of conditions for the Harijans (people considered untouchable in India) and to improve the lives of many other people.
Unfortunately, like Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi’s fight for peace and equality for all people regardless of social class, race, age, religion or gender drew anger from individuals with opposing views who wanted to stop his important work. Throughout Gandhi’s life, there were five separate attempts on his life, all from people who wanted to oppress the voice of peace and equality.
Sadly, on Jan. 30, 1948, Gandhi was assassinated at the Birla House. Millions of Indians gathered at his funeral and all Indian businesses in London were closed to honor his life.
Today, based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi who inspired Dr. King’s work and methods of peaceful protest, people often choose to see past the color of someone’s skin for who they really are – a human being.
Dr. King’s dream is alive today in the laws that prevent discrimination based on the color of one’s skin, the opportunities that people of all races have to vote, attend schools, sit in a seat of their choice on a bus, use the same restrooms and drink from the same water fountain. Dr. King’s dream is what makes up the fabric of our way of life as Americans.
Aidan DeVaney, winner of the junior high prize, is an eighth grader at Kastner Intermediate School in Clovis Unified School District.