The visit of Barack and Michelle Obama has left India mesmerized, especially the young India. President and the first lady share a great chemistry, mutual admiration and warmth that is rare these days among the world’s top political leaders which could be an example for many here in India and across the world. Michelle did not only made inspiring speeches in Mumbai but also danced into the hearts and minds of million of young Indians bringing them closer to the United States of America.
Michelle Obama during her speeches emphasized on her modest background but strong values, the importance of education and the audacity to dream big in life. She did not only introduce President Obama to the students of St. Xavier College but also exhorted them to ask the President tough questions and keep him on his toes. President Obama admitted that he did not like to speak after charismatic Michelle whom he considered a better speaker than himself.
President Obama began his pilgrimage with these words in the visitor book at the Mani Bhawan where Mahatma Gandhi spent 17 years of his life- ‘Mahatma Gandhi is a hero not just to India but to the world’; while the First Lady wrote- ‘This visit will be one that I will always treasure.
The life and teachings of Gandhi must be shared with our children around the world.’ Later when they visited the Rajghat to pay tribute to the Mahatma President Obama again wrote- ‘We will always remember the great soul who changed the world with his message of peace, tolerance, of love. More than 60 years of his passing (away), his light continues to inspire the world.’ The climax of his great tribute to Gandhi came during his address to the joint session of the Indian parliament when he said– ‘And I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as President of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the world.’
The Obamas thus rekindled the spirit of Gandhi, his message of peace, tolerance and love at a time in history when the world is gripped by waves of terrorism, extremism, fundamentalism and ‘Clash of Civilizations’ looks real; when our generation has started forgetting the ideals, methods and talisman of Mahatma Gandhi.
President Obama began his historic speech at the joint session of the Parliament with these words ‘I bring the greetings and friendship of the world’s oldest democracy - the United States of America, including nearly three million proud and patriotic Indian-Americans’, ‘Bahoot Dhanyavad’ and ended with ‘Jai Hind’.
These words reflect his great sensitivity to India’s language, culture and traditions. The speech was unique and historic in making liberal references of the great sons of India- Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore & Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar. Some of the oft-quoted lines included 'Where the mind is without fear...from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali, ‘Ayam nijah paro veti, gananaa laghu- chetsaam, udaara- charitaanam to vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ from Panchatantra etched on the entrance of the Central Hall of the Parliament, ‘To be the change we seek in the world’ of Mahatma Gandhi & ‘Holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character’ of Swami Vivekanand.
His reference to the invention of zero by the Indians deeply touched the heart of entire country–‘It’s no exaggeration to say that our Information Age is rooted in Indian innovations -including the number zero.’ His praise for India’s recent achievements in S&T he said–‘from the supercomputers you build to the Indian flag that you put on the moon’ received thunderous appaluase from the Parliament.
When we have doubts sometimes regarding the efficacy of decision-making of our democratic system, President Obama expressed undiminishing faith in our democratic system to deliver saying -‘India has succeeded, not in spite of democracy; India has succeeded because of democracy.’ He termed our democratic excersize to elect new government something extraordinary on the planet- ‘When Indians vote, the whole world watches. Thousands of political parties; hundreds of thousands of polling centers; millions of candidates and poll workers -- and 700 million voters.
There’s nothing like it on the planet’ and expressed solidarity with us in the new century -‘As you carry on with the hard work ahead, I want every Indian citizen to know: The United States of America will not simply be cheering you on from the sidelines. We will be right there with you, shoulder to shoulder. Because we believe in the promise of India. We believe that the future is what we make it.’
President Obama came across as a true global leader, not only with great oratory skills but one who promises ‘a global partnership to meet global challenges’ between our two countries.
Obamas’ greatest Diwali present to the young India was inspiration & motivation to believe in the promise of India, the promise of standing right there with us ‘shoulder to shoulder’ and bringing the message of Mahatma Gandhi closer to our hearts by exhorting more young Indians to join the public service.
Obamas stayed with us only for three days but have left us with three questions to ponder over–
What do you want India to look like in 20 years?
What kind of partnership do you want in 20 years from now?
How do you want to make the world a better place?
Let’s find our own answers and these will shape the 21st century.
Views expressed are author’s own.
Labels: Abhay K, Obama