Mahatma Gandhi was the spiritual leader of America’s non-violence movement – that is how the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, described the leader of India’s independence struggle, who influenced American social activist Martin Luther King Jr.
“150 years of Mahatma Gandhi and also the 90th anniversary of someone who learnt so much from him from a distance, Rev Dr Martin Luther King. The legacies of these two extraordinary men have forever shaped our nations and changed the course of history in books of our countries and the world,” Pelosi said in her address at an event commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma in the historic Library of Congress here on Wednesday.
At the event, Pelosi was welcomed by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Indian ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
A strong proponent of India-US relationship, Pelosi said, “The relationship between the US and India is a shining example of mutual cooperation, prosperity, and peace.”
For someone who has followed the teachings of Gandhi for decades, Pelosi said she believes in Gandhian philosophy and thinking.
“The word Satyagraha has two meanings. It means non-violence and insistence on the truth. That was exactly what Martin Luther King did,” Pelosi reiterated. She stressed, “So, it’s a debt we owe to India, an inspiration, that India has given to the US,” the Speaker said.
Pelosi further remarked, “Just as the torch passed on from Gandhi to Dr. King, the torch now belongs to us. 150 years of Gandhi and 90 years after Dr. King was born, we need to pass the torch to millions of courageous people across the globe. It’s our responsibility to support them and empower them.”
In her 11-minute long address, Pelosi even shared how she personally got interested in Mahatma Gandhi during her school days.
“I have carried India in my heart through Gandhi from the time I was a little girl,” said an emotional Pelosi. “When I was a little girl, at a Catholic school, the nun said to me, who do you think you are? Mahatma Gandhi! I had no idea who Mahatma Gandhi was,” she said.
“I went to the library. In the 1950s, they had books on Mahatma Gandhi for children that early!” the Speaker recalled.
On the occasion, Pelosi praised the address of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to the joint session of the Congress a few years ago, where he had talked about climate change and Mahatma Gandhi.
“Gandhi understood the respect we need to have for nature. And if Gandhi was here today, he would be a leader to fight for the environment in the most challenging times,” Pelosi said.
Referring to Modi’s address at the UN General Assembly last week, where the Prime Minister asked what it would have been like had Mahatma Gandhi been born in a free country, Jaishankar said, “We could perhaps take that even further and ask ourselves. The answer obviously is not a simple one because Gandhiji’s outlook and thoughts spanned a very broad spectrum of human activity.”
“But to the extent, we can define it within sharper boundaries. They are best captured by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the world seeks to achieve today,” he added.
The minister also stated in his remarks that how Mahatma Gandhi was truly a figure ahead of his times and stressed that the relevance of his teachings has only grown in the modern era.
At the end of the event, Jaishankar and the Indian envoy together presented Pelosi with a bust of Mahatma Gandhi, to which the House Speaker said that it will sit in her chamber.