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From Gandhi to Ambedkar, Obama remembers all

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Eulogising India's contribution to world civilisations, US President Barack Obama today invoked leaders from all walks of life -- from his 'hero' Mahatma Gandhi to Tagore and Ambedkar -- to drive home his point.

Obama quoted Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore, "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high" as he recalled India's contribution to world civilisations and the message Swami Vivekananda delivered in 1893 at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago.

"It's the richness of faiths celebrated by a visitor to my hometown of Chicago more than a century ago -- the renowned Swami Vivekananda," he said when he dwelt on the "very idea of India" -- "its embrace of all colours, castes and creed".

And as he spoke about his belief that "every person can fulfil their god-given potential" no matter where he comes from, he invoked the father of Indian constitution B R Ambedkar, saying "just as a Dalit like Dr Ambedkar could lift himself up and pen the words of the Constitution that protects the rights of all Indians...".

But most of all, his speech was dotted with references of Gandhi, the man whom he had hailed two days ago as "a hero not just to India but to the world."

"In the life of Gandhiji and in his simple and profound lesson to be the change we seek in the world. And just as he summoned Indians to seek their destiny, he influenced champions of equality in my own country, including a young Martin Luther King.

"After making his pilgrimage to India a half century ago, Dr King called Gandhi's philosophy of non-violent resistance 'the only logical and moral approach' in the struggle for justice and progress," the 49-year-old US President said.

He said he felt honoured and humbled to visit the residence where Gandhi and King both stayed -- Mani Bhavan -- and the memorial of the father of nation at Rajghat.

"We were humbled to pay our respects at Rajghat. 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," he said.

Trying to reach out to Indian masses, Obama said, "We believe that no matter where you live -- whether a village in Punjab or the bylanes of Chandni Chowk...An old section of Kolkata or a new high-rise in Bangalore -- every person deserves the same chance to live in security and dignity, to get an education, to find work, and to give their children a better future."

First Published: Mon, November 08 2010. 19:45 IST