Never mind Anil Vij and KVIC, Obama still finds inspiration from Gandhi

Professor-president says books helped him survive presidency, names Jhumpa Lahiri among favourites

GN Bureau | January 18, 2017


#Jhumpa Lahiri   #Anil Vij   #KVIC   #literature   #politics   #Barack Obama   #Mahatma Gandhi   #Narendra Modi  


Haryana minister Anil Vij believes Gandhi is a not an impressive brand (Modi is), and Khadi and Village Industries Commission believes Gandhi on its calendar and diaries won’t be inspiring enough (Modi will be). But this wisdom is yet to reach Barack Obama.

In the last week of his presidency, Obama sat down with the chief book critic of the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani, and discussed books. He says he survived the trying times by seeking solace from literature.

Asked about difficult circumstances like a series of mass killings and financial meltdown, Obama says, “I think that during those periods, Lincoln’s writings, King’s writings, Gandhi’s writings, Mandela’s writings — I found those particularly helpful, because what you wanted was a sense of solidarity.

“During very difficult moments, this job can be very isolating. So sometimes you have to hop across history to find folks who have been similarly feeling isolated. Churchill’s a good writer. And I loved reading Teddy Roosevelt’s writing. He’s this big, outsize character.”

India has had a few leaders who hopped across history – or geography – and found folks whose writings very helpful. Nehru of course was an accomplished writer too. PV Narasimha Rao, who arguably has been the second-most influential prime minister after Nehru, was a voracious reader, devouring fiction and non-fiction alike in a close to dozen languages.

Obama, via Martin Luther King, has a special fascination for the Mahatma. At the start of the presidency, in an interview with the same publication, he had named Gandhi among his inspirations. In his address to the joint session of India’s parliament in November 2010, he had famously 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 and inspired with America and the world.”

He also said, “India not only opened our minds, she expanded our moral imagination. With religious texts that still summon the faithful to lives of dignity and discipline. With poets who imagined a future ‘where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.’ And with a man whose message of love and justice endures-the Father of your Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
 
“For me and Michelle, this visit has therefore held special meaning. Throughout my life, including my work as a young man on behalf of the urban poor, I have always found inspiration in the life of Gandhi ji 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.”

In the latest interview, he also speaks about his late night readings (including works of Indian-origin Jhumpa Lahiri) and giving his daughter Malia a lot of books on the Kindle (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude”).
 

Comments

 

Other News

Uddhav Thackeray resigns as chief minister of Maharashtra

Minutes after the Supreme Court ordered a floor test on Wednesday night, Uddhav Thackeray in a televised address resigned as the chief minister of Maharashtra and also as a member of legislative council (MLC). He later drove down to Raj Bhavan and tendered his resignation to the governor Bhagat Singh Koshi

Gig workforce expected to expand to 2.35 crore by 2029-30

The gig economy has arrived in India, as the Covid-19 pandemic has propelled a flexibility of employment. As many as 77 lakh workers were engaged in the gig economy, constituting 2.6% of the non-agricultural workforce or 1.5% of the total workforce in India. The gig workforce is expected to expand to 2.35

How Antyodaya Saral is simplifying everyday life in Haryana

From obtaining an electricity connection to a driver`s licence, ration card, or old-age allowance, delivery of government schemes and services is an aspect of governance that impacts citizens at various points throughout their lives. The Haryana state government provides over 600 such schemes and services.

A blueprint of India’s economic future: From a former RBI governor

From Dependence to Self-Reliance: Mapping India’s Rise as a Global Superpower By Bimal Jalan Rupa Publications, 184 pages, Rs 695 Bimal Jalan, a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has been one of our finest commentators on econom

Carbon neutrality: distant dream or a possible future?

While many countries have been chasing to reach the carbon neutral status, only a few seem to be living up to their pledges as of now. The famous ’Paris Agreement’ of 2015 was glorified and celebrated that finally 196 countries have united with an intent to mitigate and reduce the greenhouse ga

Agnipath: benefits and challenges on the path ahead

The government this week announced the Tour of Duty or `Agnipath` scheme for the recruitment of soldiers in the armed forces. Under this scheme new soldiers will be recruited only for four years. This radical and far-reaching scheme has attracted mixed reactions from various quarters. While some officials

Visionary Talk: Sanjay Pandey, Mumbai Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter