“We shall overcome…” The strains of the key anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement sung by the Madras Youth Choir filled the auditorium and set the tone for the 50th anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King’s legendary “I have a dream” speech.
“One cannot talk about the American Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King without including Mahatma Gandhi,” US Ambassador to India Nancy J Powell observed in her speech at the celebration organised by the US Consulate and MOP Vaishnav College for Women here on Thursday.
And true to her remarks, a banner containing the tight-knit images of the two leaders formed the backdrop of a dais on which the Mahatma’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi sat alongside with the US envoy and a city-based journalist.
Pointing to south India’s special link with the civil rights leader, Powell said that inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings, Martin Luther King and his wife travelled throughout India in 1959 and visited Chennai, Madurai, Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram.
Drawing a parallel between King and Swami Vivekananda, Powell said the civil rights leader’s speeches, like those by the saffron saint, awakened the national consciousness of the US against discrimination based on colour, race, ethnicity and gender.
She lauded the contribution made by Indian-Americans in building bridges between the two countries.
Decrying the sense of apathy and hypocrisy prevailing in society, former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi said the mindlessness of violence and hatred had led to the killing of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. “India and US have enormous legacies to be proud of and squandering of legacies is to be ashamed of,” he rued.
Earlier, the US envoy distributed prizes to the winners of a speech contest on the topic ‘I have a dream.’