I am pleased to be here with you to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Dr. King was murdered 50 years ago, at the age of 39. Today, we pause to pay tribute to his extraordinary life and legacy, and to reflect on the lessons he taught us.
We draw strength from his courage and his resolve. While great gains have been made in the struggle for equality since his time, there is still more to do to bring his dream within reach for all in our societies. As Dr. King told us, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And responding to this challenge remains our great unfinished business.
While we are here to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., because we are working in India, we cannot talk about Dr. King without mentioning Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was an inspiration to Dr. King. He was someone who demonstrated the power of non-violent resistance in fighting injustice and inequality. In India, Gandhi-ji overcame what seemed to be an insurmountable struggle for independence by using non-violent civil disobedience.
Facing his own struggles with racial inequality and injustice in the United States,
Dr. King also practiced non-violent civil disobedience. In his autobiography, Dr. King clearly stated that “Gandhi was the guiding light of [his] technique of nonviolent social change” – a technique he famously employed in his fight to end segregation.
Dr. King’s admiration for Gandhi’s nonviolence brought him to India in 1959, a visit that changed his life. Here, in this great country where we have the privilege to live, Dr. King deepened his understanding of non-violent resistance and his commitment to America’s struggle for civil rights. In a radio address he gave during his final evening in India, Dr. King said, “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.” Months after returning home, Dr. King continued to acknowledge how wonderful it was to be in “Gandhi’s” land.
We are all fortunate to be working here, in India and for this Embassy. I encourage you to find ways you can add your voice and your talents to inspire and implement positive change in your world much like Dr. Martin Luther King did in his.
Thank you, and we are now going to read an excerpt of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Let us begin with:
“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ ”