Good Morning. It is a privilege to receive this award with such other distinguished honorees.
I am most pleased to accept it on the day before Martin Luther King’s birthday – the day on which we acknowledge and celebrate not only the birth of Dr. King but also the birth that he gave to the civil and human rights movements here in the United States and around the world.
I feel doubly blessed to be given this honor because of the indelible connection between Dr. King and that other famous civil and human rights leader from my homeland of India, Mahatma Gandhi.
As Dr. King noted in a radio broadcast during a visit to India in 1959, “If this age is to survive it must follow the way of love and nonviolence that Gandhi so nobly illustrated in his life.”
Dr. King and Gandhi have been beacons to me in my personal life and charitable and philanthropic involvement. I have given to numerous causes to support humanitarian efforts and to advance the interests of the under-served in the world.
I am on the advisory board and a major contributor to the U.S. Institute of Peace – an organization devoted to the nonviolent prevention and mitigation of deadly conflict around the globe. I also serve on the Cabinet of the Woodrow Wilson Center which is dedicated to being the nation’s leading institution for in-depth research and dialogue for “actionable” ideas on global issues. The majority of those “ideas” are directed at non-violent solutions to increase human and civil rights.
Mahatma Gandhi told us that, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Dr. King advised us that, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
I have heard the words of Dr. King and Mr. Gandhi and am trying my best to “walk in the light” and to “be the change.” I know that is true for all of you in this audience here this morning as well and I am proud to be a partner with you on this sacred mission.
It is a critically important one. Because as the novelist and civil rights activist, Marian Wright Edelman observed, “A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back – but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Wright’s statement of responsibility to carry forward the good work of King and Gandhi.
It is up to us. It is up to you. It is up to me.
But, I do not agree that these two great men are gone. They live on through each of us who are willing to pick up the baton of non-violence and use it as an instrument for peace and making the world a healthier and better place for all.
I am merely one of many who have made this commitment – most of whom will never receive public recognition for having done so. Therefore, with all due humility, I am honored to accept the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award for International Service for myself and on their behalf.
Thank you. God bless you all.