Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives Her Excellency Nancy Pelosi,
Honorable External Affairs Minister of India His Excellency Dr. S. Jaishankar,
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and other senior officials from the US Administration,
Ambassadors of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Trinidad & Tobago, South Africa and Myanmar,
Ladies & gentlemen,
We are gathered here today in the Library of Congress to mark a historic occasion – the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhiji or Bapu as he was affectionately referred to, was a simple man – who not only guided India's freedom struggle but also inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. He continues to remain a spiritual beacon for humanity.
Mahatma Gandhi travelled to London to study law and later to practice as a lawyer in South Africa. He returned to India in 1915 as a leader of India’s movement for Independence. The racial inequities that he witnessed and experienced abroad and in colonial India first-hand, and his choice of the political weapons of "satyagraha", civil disobedience and non-cooperation to counter them, were instrumental in his transformation and that of his country.
While Mahatma Gandhi could never travel to America, his work was closely followed in the U.S. The New York Pastor John Haynes Holmes who founded the American Civil Liberties Union delivered a sermon titled, “Who is the Greatest Man in the World?” His answer, Mahatma Gandhi. The Chicago-based magazine, the Christian Century, repeatedly proposed Mahatma Gandhi’s name for the Nobel Peace Prize. Gandhiji’s Salt March in 1930 was closely followed in the US and during his imprisonment after the Salt March, he received letters of support from ordinary Americans who identified with his struggle for freedom, equality and dignity for all. The Time magazine chose him as Man of the Year as early as in 1930.
Several great American leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1959, have retraced the steps of Mahatma Gandhi in the Sabarmati ashram in Gujarat. Mahatma Gandhi was also a source of inspiration for Nelson Mandela, former President Barack Obama and for our Guest of Honor today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I recall that in my very first interaction with Madam Speaker at the USISPF Summit in July, she had mentioned that her curiosity in Mahatma Gandhi was aroused right from her school days when she read every book in the school library on Mahatma Gandhi. Your presence here today, Madam Speaker, truly befits the occasion.
Madam Speaker, Mr. Minister and our esteemed guests,
It is a matter of great satisfaction that on the occasion of the 150th Birth Anniversary, both the US Senate and House have introduced Resolutions recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s contribution to mankind; emphasizing the shared influence of Gandhiji’s teachings on civil rights leaders around the world, including Dr. Martin Luther King; and highlighting the shared values of the people of India and the United States of America.
I thank Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Mark Warner D-MD) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX); and Representative George Holding (R-NC), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. T J Cox (D-CA), Rep. David Price (D-NC) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) for their valuable co-sponsorship of these resolutions. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has also introduced a resolution for the award of a Congressional Gold Medal to honor Mahatma Gandhi.
We are deeply honored to have with us today the External Affairs Minister of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar. As a career diplomat and now as the External Affairs Minister, Dr. Jaishankar has played a leading role in the building of the India-US strategic partnership, to realize the potentials of cooperation between the oldest and largest democracies in the world. Our Minister is a Member of Parliament from the constituency of Narmada in the state of Gujarat - the home state of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji and Mahatma Gandhi.
The India-US strategic partnership has always benefited from strong bi-partisan support in Congress and is underpinned by the friendship between our people and our shared values of freedom, equality and commitment to inclusive progress.
Madam Speaker, your presence adds great value to this historic occasion. I thank you and the Minister for gracing today's event.
I thank the US India Strategic Partnership Forum and the Mahindra Group, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary today, for supporting this event. I would also like to acknowledge the fulsome support received from the Asia Division of the Library of Congress for organizing an exhibition on Mahatma Gandhi earlier in the day today.
I thank all of our guests for joining us on this memorable occasion.
I would like to leave you with an idea proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Op-Ed in the New York Times today – which he calls the Einstein Challenge – inviting thinkers, entrepreneurs and tech leaders to be at the forefront of spreading Gandhiji’s ideas through innovation. I hope that we will all rise to meet this noble challenge.