Grandson of Gandhi to speak at John Hope Franklin symposium
By RANDY KREHBIEL
With his name and family line, Rajmohan Gandhi's direction in life should not be surprising.
Gandhi was 12 years old when his grandfather Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated because of his efforts to quell the religious, ethnic and political turmoil surrounding India's independence and its partition from Pakistan.
Rajmohan says the elder Gandhi's devotion to overcoming divisions and the manner of his death had a tremendous influence on him.
"I have to say it did because he had this clear vision," said Rajmohan Gandhi, keynote speaker for this year's John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation symposium Wednesday through Friday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
"He definitely had an impact on me and my goals in life," Gandhi said. "I saw a great deal of him from the time I was about 10 until I was 12, when he was in the last stages of life.
"The fact he was killed because of his belief in reconciliation left its mark on me."
After a brief political career, Rajmohan Gandhi has devoted the last 40 years of his life to understanding conflict and working for reconciliation. Now 76, he is a research professor at the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Illinois and academic director of an international program called Global Crossroads.
He has written several books, including a biography of his grandfather and, most recently, a comparative study of the 1857 India Revolt and the American Civil War.
Americans might not think the United States and India have much in common, but, as Gandhi points out, they share several links. Both won independence from Britain, both are large democracies with diverse populations and both are governed under a federal system with relatively strong state governments.
Although Gandhi has taught at the University of Illinois since 1997, he remains active in resolving the regional, religious and cultural conflicts that continue to roil India and complicate its relations with neighboring Pakistan.
Gandhi will bring those experiences to his John Hope Franklin address Thursday evening. His talk, he said, will cover the tension between efforts for reconciliation and struggles for justice, the connection between reconciliation in America and reconciliation in the world as a whole and varying articulations of the American Dream.
John Hope Franklin Center Symposium
The symposium begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday with a bus tour of the Greenwood area and concludes with a panel discussion Friday. Most of the events will be held at the Hyatt Regency Tulsa.
Featured speakers include former Tulsa mayors Susan Savage and Kathy Taylor, former Mississippi Gov. William Winter, Oklahoma author and historian Davis Joyce, Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.
Rajmohan Gandhi will give the keynote speech, which is free and open to the public, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
Cost of the symposium is $225 or $100 for students, with day rates available.
To register, go to tulsaworld.com/jhfcsymposium or call the John Hope Franklin Center at 918-295-5009 .
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