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Arun Gandhi delivered a message of peace on Monday, May 16, at Templeton Blackburn Memorial Auditorium.

Photographer: Vardine Grigoryan


Student leaders with the International Student Union hosted a dinner to welcome Arun Gandhi to Ohio University.

Photographer: Amanda Yusko

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International Week keynote spreads message of nonviolence

Arun Gandhi shares life lessons, stories of his grandfather

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Indian spiritual leader Mohandas Gandhi, came to Ohio University Monday bearing a message of nonviolence for the students, staff, faculty and community members in the audience. His lecture, titled "Lessons learned from my grandfather: Non-violence in a violent world," served as the keynote address for International Week 2011.

Gandhi began by comparing the culture of violence in our society to a cancer that he said is eating away at humanity.

Growing up in South Africa, Gandhi had been a victim of apartheid and was beaten by whites and blacks because of the color of his skin. He said he became obsessed with fighting back and, at the age of 12, was sent to live with his grandfather in India.  

His first lesson dealt with channeling anger into positive actions.

"He told me, 'Anger is like electricity; it’s just as useful and just as powerful, but only if we use it intentionally,'" Gandhi said. "And just as we channel electrical energy and bring it into our lives and use it for the good of humanity, we must learn to channel anger in the same way so that we can use that energy for the good of humanity rather than abuse the energy and cause death and destruction."

Gandhi explained that nonviolence is often misunderstood to be the absence of physical force or a time of no war, but that there is much more to it that needs to be understood and practiced in daily life. He went on to share more life lessons his grandfather had taught him as well as stories from his adult life, evoking both laughter and reverence from the crowd.

"Many of the things that he taught me over the two years that I was with him, things that came out of everyday life, turned out to be very important lessons that transformed my life and transformed my way of thinking and relationships with people," Gandhi said.

Jesse Makowski, a senior international studies major, said, as a Buddhist, he appreciated the opportunity to listen to a speaker discuss nonviolence. He had received a letter from Arun Gandhi when he was in middle school after taking part in a nonviolence campaign.

"Us Americans, you know, we don’t take time to actually think about stuff like nonviolence and ways we can improve the world and love each other," Makowski said. "I’m just really happy that he’s here."

Amanda Vogt, a senior journalism major, attended the event for her international mass media course and said, even though she did not know much about Gandhi prior to his speech, she enjoyed it.

“It was really interesting to me to hear the stories that he had with his grandfather and his father and just the kind of overly obvious, simple teachings that I think a lot of us take for granted and don’t realize,” Vogt said.

OHIO's international heritage

While introducing Arun Gandhi, University College Dean & Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies David Descutner shared some facts about the legacy of international involvement at Ohio University:

•    In 1895, the first international student came to OHIO.
•    In the 1920s, the first international student organizations began.
•    In 1952, students from 37 different countries attended OHIO.
•    Today, 1,500 international students from 100 different countries are in attendance.
•    OHIO's education abroad program  involves 25 different countries and more than 1,000 different students.

For more on OHIO's international points of pride, click here.

Keynote sponsors

Keynote sponsors:

Arun Gandhi's lecture was sponsored in part by the Ki-Chul Andrew Jung International Week Endowment Fund. The endowment honors the memory of Andrew Jung, an international student who died shortly after graduating from Ohio University. A memorial tree was also planted next to Alden Library in Jung's memory.

Other sponsors of the event include: the Student Activities Commission (SAC), International Student Union (ISU), International Student and Faculty Services (ISFS) and the Office of Education Abroad (OEA).