In New Delhi on January 28, the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr. delivered the Gandhi Memorial Lecture, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the martyrdom of Mohandas K. Gandhi. The text is published as part of The Nation‘s ongoing Moral Compass series, devoted to the spoken word.
Mahatma Gandhi–sixty years later, his legacy is alive. His dreams for democracy, decolonization, human rights, his quest to end barbaric enmity based upon class, tribe, race and gender, has momentum… For the most part, all of Africa, Asia, South, Central and Latin America and the Caribbean has been decolonized in the last sixty years–most of the world’s people.
Nuclear war and greed remain our threats, non-violence and Satayagraha–soul force–remains our therapy, and the only window from which the peace we seek is possible.
Dr. King said, “Just call me a drum major for justice.” Dr. King and Gandhi were drum majors and dreamers who marched to a different beat, and heard a different sound.
Dreamers march to a different beat because with their third ear they hear something unordinary. Dreamers are often counterculture. They swim upstream. Dreamers most often are change agents, sometimes called misfits. They are artists. They write the play you never imagined. They sing the song or make the sound that seems totally new. Dreamers are politicians with a new vision, a new capacity to connect with exquisite timing. They seem to capture the zeitgeist moment in the fullness of time.
These dreamers are not asleep; they dream with their eyes open. They are the stuff of which change is made.
So often in life they are rejected, imprisoned, killed or martyred.
In the Old Testament, Joseph, the visionary, the interpreter of dreams, was rejected by his brothers, but ultimately saved the rejecters, his family, the jailers and the nation. Jesus was rejected by his religion. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and isolated. Dr. King was attacked by his government. His home was bombed; he was stabbed, and ultimately martyred.
Mahatma Gandhi, the merciful, imprisoned by his government and killed by the merciless and the unknowing: his attackers just didn’t know who he was.
Ironically, those who sought to give their lives, had their lives taken from them. In each instance, these dreamers had majority visions bigger than their own ethnicity, common surroundings, their country and their practiced religion. We live in the wake of their dreams, their risks and their sacrifices. We are beneficiaries of great legacies that obligate us to act and to serve.
Today we reflect on sixty years since the assassination and martyrdom of Mohandas K. Gandhi (the Mahatma), and forty years since the brutal assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This master teacher and the master student–Gandhi and King–they changed the world in life, and even more powerfully in death. It can seldom be said that one person changed the course of the whole world, or that of a nation. But through acts of unusual courage, risky acts of sacrifice, selflessness and vision, in some time from some place… it happens.
Jesus the Christ transcended his race, religion, geography and his time.