CHENNAI: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Mr. Narasiah, Dr. Sundaram, I am honored to be a part of this annual Martin Luther King, Jr. lecture.
Dr. King’s work in the Civil Rights movement has made a lasting impact on the United States not only for black Americans, but in improving equal treatment and justice for all Americans.
His vision, courage, and sacrifice set the United States on a path toward liberty, equality, and opportunity for all citizens. As many of you likely know, Dr. King gleaned inspiration from one of India’s greatest leaders, Mahatma Gandhi.
Although these two great figures never actually met, Gandhi’s teachings and philosophy, particularly the doctrines of non-violent resistance, service to the community, and social justice, were a huge influence on Dr. King – and through him on the civil rights movement in America.
In 1959, Dr. King and his wife traveled to India to better understand Gandhi’s philosophy. They met with Prime Minister Nehru and other Indian leaders in politics, government, academia, and across society.
But perhaps more importantly, Dr. King talked with ordinary citizens and young people at every opportunity. Dr. King took the lessons he learned back to the United States, and renewed his own faith in the unmatched moral force of nonviolent resistance and its ability to achieve meaningful social change.
Thanks to Dr. King’s tireless efforts, the United States has made significant progress towards equal rights, but we know we need to continue to work towards Dr. King’s dream as parts of our society are still not fully included and integrated.
In both of our countries, and in many parts of the world, racism and inequality still persists, which in addition to the suffering it causes the individual, also prevent our nations from reaching our full potential by sidelining segments of society and losing their invaluable contributions.
Gandhi’s and Dr. King’s message of love, tolerance and equality, continue to speak to us all, as it is not only universal, but also timeless… just as apt today, as it was decades ago.
Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, but his words continue to echo even today: “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” So too, our two countries must carry on the goals of Gandhi and Dr. King, to work towards equal opportunity for all our citizens, regardless of race, color, creed, or gender.