This article spotlights three short biographies of three among the greatest persons our world has ever known: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama.
Two of them were like lightning in our life and then they were gone. They left behind the stories of their struggle. The third is fighting for a better world now.
Jane Rollason, Gandhi, 2004, Penguin Readers Books
Mahatma Gandhi 1869-1948:
The first man to use non-violent protest, Gandhi was the first to fight for the rights of Hindus in South Africa. This work made him think even bigger for his own country and about independence for India from the British Empire. He started to lead famous marches, like the 1930 Salt March.
India is a hot country; life without salt is not possible, but at that time people had to pay money to the British when they took salt. Gandhi thought this law hurt poor people more than rich people, so he made a plan to march from the Sabarmati ashram to Dandi, a small place by the Indian Ocean. Gandhi looked at the ocean, he took some salt in his hand and showed it to the people, “I am breaking the law”, he said.
Civil disobedience worked. He used fasting (hunger strike) to stop the violence between Muslims and Hindus. Finally in 1947 India became independent mainly because of Mahatma Gandhi, and his way of protesting.
Gandhi was assassinated on the 30th of January 1948. Since then, other heroes like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama have read his books and studied his life, and ultimately used his ideas in their independence protests.
Coleen Degnan-veness, Martin Luther King, 2008, Penguin Readers Books
Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968:
King followed and developed the thought of the great Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, who taught that the best way to achieve social justice was through non-violent means. King’s argument is, simply put, that the end does not justify the means. If violence must be used in order to achieve social justice for oppressed peoples, then, for King, attaining social justice in this way is immoral. King believed that all human beings are made in the image of God; therefore, to strike or harm another human being is, in a sense, to strike God.
The most effective way to achieve social justice is therefore to use non-violent means in order to show the world how seriously the oppressed peoples want to achieve their gold. He led many marches for civil rights. At the famous march in Washington D.C. 28 august 1963, he delivered his famous speech, known today as the ‘I have a dream’ speech. His dream was for black people and white people to live together peacefully. “All Americans are equal,” he said.
King was assassinated on April 4th 1986, in Memphis, Tennessee. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.
Jane Rollason, Barack Obama, 2010, Jacquie Bloese, ISBN: 978-1-905-77579-8.
On January 20th, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States Of America. He is the first African-American to be president of the richest and strongest country in the world. He was born in Hawaii in 1961, his mother was from Kansas and his father from Kenya. Barack went to Hawaii high school, after that he joined Occidental College in Los Angeles. In 1981, Obama moved to attend Columbia University in New York. After finishing his studies he arrived in Chicago in 1983 as a community organizer.
Thereafter he decided to go to Harvard Law School, and then planned to come back to Chicago after that to make real change. He won his first election in 1997 when he became a senator in the Illinois Senate. In 2005 Obama became the fifth African-American to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. Later Obama became a candidate for the president of the United States for the Democratic Party, and the main slogan of his campaign was ‘Can we change things?’, ‘Yes we can,’ he answered. On the 21st of January, the new president’s - the first black president’s - work began.
We know that the only way we have reached this far, is by keeping focus on the peacemakers, the people whose hard work and often hard lives have made our world possible and peaceful. In this special way we honour the activists who sacrificed their lives in order to make this world a sensible place to live.