Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Role and contribution of youth in building the society and nation is inevitable and important. Enthusiastic and animated youths are always capable of according different dimensions, to the pathway of progress. With proper guidance and constructive approach, they can undoubtedly and unprecedentedly add to the development of society and glory of the nation.

Hundreds of thousands of pages of history are before us to prove the foremost role played from time-to-time by enthusiastic and fervent youths in the making of societies and development of the nations. On the strength of their tireless efforts they have brought revolutions in their respective fields and thus have become heroes of their eras. They left deep impression of their exemplary work on the people of not only their own respective countries, but on the whole world thus emerging as the world leaders.

Who is not familiar with the accomplishments of young Gautama Buddha on the strength of Jnana [knowledge] and Karma [deed] in changing the Indian society thereafter becoming the source of inspiration for so many in the world. I am particularly talking about Gautama Buddha first because despite his birth in the Indian subcontinent, people of South and Southeast Asia are well acquainted with his name, views and works. His message and the suggested way for the welfare of the whole humanity, is well known to them and for which he is highly respected.

Youth leaders from across the globe and their contributions to the cause of humanity have been exemplary. Moreover the legacies, which they have left behind through their views and work, are still relevant to the modern context and shall remain significant in times to come.

I am citing two examples from Thailand. First of them relates to Phra Paramandar Maha Chulalongkorn, who also known as Rama the Fifth [1853-1910] was crowned when fifteen years of age. But, on the strength of his wisdom, sincerity and capability, Rama the Fifth accomplished several historic tasks including the abolishment of slavery system from Siam. Beside this, he also accomplished the tasks of introducing telegraphic system, reforming the judicial system of Siam and brought about changes in the economic and social field in his country. Moreover, he wrote the golden pages in the history of the nation by establishing good relations of his country with other nations of the world thus succeeding in attaining an equal status for Siam among the nations
of the world.

The second example relates to Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama the Ninth, the present king of Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1927) ascended the throne at the age of nineteen at a time when the situation of the country was critical. It was facing political instability. But the genius and skill of the young king went a long way in solving the problems of Thailand and leading the country towards the path of progress. Later he accomplished some historic tasks, thus saving the nation from crisis of a serious nature. For his skillful handling of the situation, which arose during incidents relating to mass killings in the Thammasat University, Bangkok [1976] and violence due to political unrest in the country (1992) was instrumental in saving the country. His role in carrying forward and strengthening the process of democracy in the kingdom of Thailand will also be cherished for a long.

Other examples which can be cited come from the continent of Asia. Vivekananda [1863-1902], one of the great social reformers of modern India and also a scholar par excellence in his thirty-nine years’ significantly added to the treasures of Indian philosophy and spiritualism. Similarly, Chandrashekhar Venkataraman [1888-1970], the great Indian scientist, who also won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1930, created history through his scientific experiments when he was quite young, thus astonishing the whole world. Rajiv Gandhi [1944-1991] in his forty-seven years gave a new direction, especially by ascertaining a place for India in the field of science and technology. Moreover, Rajiv Gandhi made his compatriots realize their role and contribution in the increasing process of globalization. During his tenure as Prime Minister he mounted his country high in the world affairs too.

Ninoy Aquino of Philippines [1932-1991] was appointed as an advisor for the main statutory body of the country as young as seventeen. He also became a member of the Parliament and the provincial governor at a very young age. All those who are familiar with his life and works, they are aware how he served his nation and guided his compatriots. After his assassination he became a source of inspiration for those who came on the forefront to change the political system of the nation under President Ferdinand Marcos through the EDSA [Epifanio de los Santos Avenue] revolution in 1986. Likewise, Sirimavo R. D. Bandaranaike [1916-2000], who was the world's first elected woman Prime Minister, lead the nation of Sri Lanka at her young age and accomplished a
gigantic task of making her country self-reliant in social, political and economic fields. As one of the founder leaders of the Non Aligned Movement, the NAM, she had also left deep impression of her personality in the international arena.

Talking about women, from time-to-time many young women leaders have created histories. Mention can be made about Golda Meir [1898-1978], who emerged a young woman leader at the age of fifteen. On the basis of her capability and skill she ascertained a special place for herself and led Israel as its fourth Prime Minister. There is a long list of such women across the world amongst which the name of Kalpana Chawla [1962-2003], an Indian-American scientist and a NASA astronaut is worth mentioning.

Our discussion about young leaders cannot be confined to Asia. Abraham Lincoln [1809-1965] had started influencing the American society deeply from the age of twenty-five. Later, he emerged as an angel of social change. It was Lincoln who as the President of the United States of America accomplished the great tasks of abolishing the centuries old slavery system from the American society. Similarly, Martin Luther King Junior [1929-1968], emerged as a leader of African-American Civil Rights Movement in 1955 when he was just twenty-six years of age. From the time when he was in his late thirties he brought about changes in social and political spheres in the country, and today he has become the source of inspiration for so many across the world.

Undoubtedly, youth have always played an important role in the making of societies and rebuilding the nations. Furthermore, those who took the right path, they created histories, and on the strength of their capability and fervor they inspired hundreds of thousands to come to the forefront to bring fundamental change in the prevailing economic, political, religious and social systems. Their role is still equally imperative and it will remain so in future, particularly in the process of development and building of societies and nations. Especially their contributions cannot be denied in the transformations of the society as a whole as per the demand of time and space.


Constructive approach and proper guidance for youths, particularly in the process of development and building the society and nation are significant as they prevent them from going astray and helping them to bring forth the spirit and enthusiasm, and thus making their efforts welfaristic. In this context some of the extraordinary examples are worth mentioning.

First of all, let us take the example of the struggle for Indian freedom in the Gandhian era [1917-1942]. Thousands of capable and enthusiastic youths having a definite goal went forward under the direction of Mahatma Gandhi. These also included youths like Jawaharlal Nehru, Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Rajendra Prasad. With soaring courage they continuously fought on the strength of Ahimsa for the freedom of their motherland. The result was positive, historical and exemplary, and well known to all.

The second example can be cited is from Hue Danang, Vietnam where youths through a non-violent action came forward for a socio-political change in 1966, and again during the years 1967-68 students of the country played a vital role in the movement launched for equality in the society. Likewise, the third example worth mentioning here from Asia relates to the ADSA revolution in the Philippines in the year 1986. The manner in which the youths and students of the country who took inspirations especially from the late Ninoy Aquino played a vital role in the non-violent ADSA revolution for the set purpose of political change in the Philippines is not unknown. Needless to say that young force was there behind the historical and non-violent change in the Philippines in 1986.

Not only in Asia, but also in the United States of America as we know, non-violent actions launched under young leaders like Martin Luther King Junior, had been responsible in bringing about fundamental change in the social and political fields of the country. It is the effect and result of those actions that people like Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama have been and are in the centre of global politics today. They have emerged as leaders to lead the United States of America.

Moving to the African and the European continent we witness that these nations have also not been left uninfluenced. In all movements launched, right from the third decade to the end of the twentieth century whether be it the demand for equal wages for work, rights, freedom and equality or reforms in education system in England, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, Netherlands and Yugoslavia, youths as their leaders have played a vital and decisive role in all of them.

Simultaneously, in the series of events pertaining to the struggle of peasants in Ghana in 1937, the movement for separation of Zambia from the African Union between 1959 and 1964, resistance of Algerians to the deployment of troops by their rulers against them in 1962, or the action taken by Sudanese to overthrow the military rule in the country, youths have played important role in all of them. Undoubtedly wherever youths were guided properly, they recorded unprecedented victories. Their contribution became exemplary, memorable and ideal for generations to come, particularly for the energetic excited young.

Hence, for youths, particularly those who are going to become the basis of any fundamental change or the reconstruction of society and nation, or adding to the development, it is absolutely necessary that they are guided properly, and a constructive approach becomes imperative.


Today, the process of globalization has taken an unprecedented dimension transforming the world into a global village. In this process it is impossible for any nation of the world to exist in a state of isolation if thought in terms of progress and welfare. Therefore, going forward together in cooperation is indispensable and inevitable now. Moreover, in this process of global change the role of youths is as important as it has been in the past especially in the reconstruction and development of their native societies or nations. In other words, their role and contribution in this process of globalization is as desirable as it is important at the local and national level.

The data pertaining to the continuously increasing process of globalization is well before us to prove the role played by youths in bringing it forward. Particularly, the revolutionary contribution of youths in the economic field and also in science and technology including information technology is worth mentioning, and is unprecedented. More especially, the role played by the youths of China and India, the two super powers of the future, in exemplary and ideal for the youths of whole world.

Taking India for instance, twenty-five percent graduates of its four main technical institutes go to the United States of America every year where they significantly contribute in many fields including information technology. Similarly, they play a vital role in other countries of the world especially in the nations of Europe.

As the process of globalization has to go further, many more dimensions have to be added to this process where the role of youths become undoubtedly more vital and significant, thus increasing their responsibility many folds. Taking a lesson from history, youth must work with extra care so that the situation like that of socio-political slavery does not emerge again. Along with this, they should ascertain that everyone on this planet gets equal opportunity to rise and take the benefit of development at the global level.

Thus, it is hoped that youth and their leadership will work in the right direction with a sense of responsibility and constructive approach. It is also hoped that they will perform their duty well in the process of globalization. Moreover, it is our duty that we join them and wherever necessary direct them. Finally, we all are the shareholders in the gains achieved through the efforts of youths, which will be a gain for the entire world.


*This article is based on the principal text of lecture to be delivered by Dr. Ravindra Kumar at the Udon Thani Rajabhat University, Udon Thani, Thailand on November 24, 2010.

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