Courtney R. Nemroff
Acting U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 2, 2019
Albert Einstein once said of Mahatma Gandhi: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.” Such was the profound impact of the Mahatma on the world’s imagination. The United States joins the people of India and the UN family in celebrating the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi – an individual whose life, message, and legacy is as relevant today as it was seven decades ago when he led the people of India to freedom.
Gandhi-ji’s message of non-violence has long resonated with the American people. Indeed, the writings of the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau inspired Gandhi’s campaign of civil disobedience during India’s struggle for independence. Gandhi’s famous Salt March in 1930 still stands as one of the most powerful acts of civil disobedience in world history.
Gandhian teachings profoundly affected the American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This year not only marks the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, but it is also the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic visit to India. Dr. King travelled to India to learn about the Mahatma’s life and message. He was inspired by the ability of one individual to bring about transformational change through non-violence and moral persuasion. The lessons Dr. King took back deeply influenced the civil rights movement in the United States.
In India, Gandhi’s vision of dignity and sanitation is being realized by the Swachh Bharat Mission (Neat and Tidy India Mission). Just last week Prime Minister Narendra Modi was awarded the Global Goalkeeper award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for this enormous undertaking. The Mahatma would be proud to see the great strides India has made to bring development and dignity to its 1.3 billion citizens.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “The United States is different because Gandhi lived and I venture to the think that the world is different because of Gandhian ideas.” His words still hold true to this day. Gandhi’s message of love, unity, and tolerance is needed more than ever in a world undergoing profound political and economic change. And as fellow democracies, the United States and India have a unique responsibility to uphold the values Gandhi stood for and to ensure his message lives on for posterity.