Statues of renowned leaders reside in the Peace Garden at California State University, Fresno as an inspiration for students to â€œbe the change that they wish to see,â€ as Mahatma Gandhi would say.
Friday, Oct. 2 marked Gandhiâ€™s 140th birthday, which has been declared the International Day of Non-Violence by the United Nations. It is also the beginning of Fresno Stateâ€™s annual â€œStop the Hate and Build a Culture of Peaceâ€ week.
Fresno State honored Gandhiâ€™s birthday with its signature garlanding ceremony at the Peace Garden on Saturday. The two-hour event was a festive mix of traditional Indian dance, music and speeches. The highlight of the afternoon came as University President John D.Welty and Provost and Vice President of Student Affairs William A. Covino, placed the white and red garland around Gandhiâ€™s statue.
â€œItâ€™s most appropriate that we gather here today and what weâ€™ve attempted to create is a special place that people can gather to celebrate, to reflect and to also think about the future,â€ Welty said in a speech during Saturdayâ€™s event.
The crowd was a diverse mix of age and race, a true reflection of Gandhiâ€™s principle to unite and work toward peaceful reform despite our differences. This ideal is especially significant in our community, explained Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, founder of Stop the Hate week and the Peace Garden at Fresno State, because we live in one of the most diverse communities in the nation.
â€œWe are going to have differences. Nobody said that weâ€™re not going to have them. But we can certainly share our differences in a more successful manner so that we donâ€™t have to kill,â€ Kapoor said.
Kapoor, a retired social work professor, taught at Fresno State for almost 40 years. He spent most of his life as a community activist and continues to dedicate himself to helping others.
He stressed the importance of celebrating Gandhi, not only to honor his accomplishments but to also keep his legacy ongoing.
According to Kapoor, the present generation is not connected with past leaders. He said the only way this can be resolved by teaching why these leaders are important and how theyâ€™ve helped shape our world today.
â€œ[Gandhiâ€™s] motto was â€˜my life is my message.â€™ So if they would read more about him, thatâ€™s one thing,â€ Kapoor said. â€œAnd after reading take some action to make a difference in the lives of people around you. See that you can make a little difference actually.â€
Students clubs like Trabajadores de la Raza (Workers for the People) are taking action to make a positive difference. The on-campus club helped set up Saturdayâ€™s event and stood out in the crowd in red shirts with their club name printed across the front.
One of its newest members, freshman Victoria Leal, said she was touched from hearing some of Gandhiâ€™s philosophies expressed throughout the ceremony.
â€œItâ€™s for all people to come together, to be one voice, to be a part of something that such a leader gave back to the community and the people,â€ Leal said. â€œI feel like it provides students with finding out the true meaning behind respect and love for the community as a whole.â€
Among the various speeches and assorted messages, solidarity and a vow to peace remained the foundation that all other principles were built upon. As the crowd gathered and circled to recite the official pledge in two different languages, a feeling of hope and unity were displayed on all the optimistic faces.
â€œWe all want to stand tall, but if I want to stand tall I cut your head off, then I am taller than you. Is that the way we want it? No,â€ Kapoor said. â€œWe want it where we all stand tall, not just me alone. That standing tall is a service and a commitment to humanity. So, this is where we stand tall.â€