The grandson of the man most identified with peaceful protest urged Turlock university students to channel anger and consider the destruction of waste and materialism.
“May Peace Prevail on Earth,” written in 16 languages, decorates an elegantly simple pole set in a small flower patch set at the edge of the California State University, Stanislaus, facing the campus reflecting pond.
The monument to inclusion was created by university art students, said university President Ellen Junn. In one of the most moving moments of the dedication, speakers of the languages rose and stood by the pole, reciting the words in their native tongue.
“Isn’t it beautiful? Such a simple message,” said Zachary Hernandez, a communications major, as he surveyed the artwork.
Isn’t it beautiful? Such a simple message.
Gandhi, speaking after the dedication, called the pole “a unique conception” that fits well in the diverse California landscape.
Asked about the symbolism in this moment in history, Gandhi said. “I think it’s very appropriate. We need peace more now than we ever did, when we are sitting on the brink of the third world war.”
Now a U.S. citizen, Gandhi said he did not vote for President Donald Trump and believes his grandfather would be saddened by today’s political climate.
Gandhi, a speaker and author, brought up themes from latest book, “The Gift of Anger,” which includes lessons he learned over two years living with his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, before the civil rights leader’s assassination in 1948.
Arun Gandhi said he was “a feisty 12-year-old” sent to live with his grandfather, who patiently worked to help him master his anger. His grandfather spoke of physical violence as easy to confront, but passive violence as more insidious. To the latter category he assigned actions that lead to violence, such as bigoted statements, repression of women, or gluttony while others go hungry.
“Violence has seeped do deeply into our lives,” Gandhi said, listing entertainment, sports and politics.
It’s not punishment that is important, it is penance.
“It starts with parenting. If we threaten our children, that is planting the seeds of violence in their mind,” he said. “It’s not punishment that is important, it is penance.”
He also told stories of his grandfather – who, he stressed, was only human. As a 16-year-old husband, Mahatma Gandhi told his wife never to leave the house without his permission. She did not argue, but did not comply. When confronted, she told him she was following his parents’ wishes, and asked if she should explain the new rule to his mother.
“He said it was the most powerful lesson in nonviolent conflict resolution he ever learned,” Gandhi said.
The day also included introducing the university’s new Presidential Commission on Diversity and Inclusion. It held its first meeting in May, said vice chair Bao Lo, an ethnic studies instructor. The commission is with creating an institutional plan for inclusion, she said, looking at everything from staffing and recruitment to how well coursework includes diverse views.
“We want our students to leave here with a great understanding of diversity and international, global events,” said Lo.