Gandhi’s “Lessons From My Grandfather”: University welcomes world activist

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Pacific University’s Center for Peace and Spirituality will be hosting Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and world-renowned social activist, at 7 p.m. in the Stoller Centern on Feb. 28. In his “Lessons From My Grandfather” speech, Gandhi will chronicle the life and legacy of his grandfather as well as translate how his messages can be used in today’s world by living and engaging nonviolently in a violent society.

Bringing Arun Gandhi to speak is the first major act by the Center for Peace and Spirituality.The center is in its first year of operation, after being created to parallel the academic study of peace and social justice with a non-academic stem.

“Pacific has always had a peace studies minor. A few years ago we changed that to a peace and social justice minor. One or two years ago some anti-Muslim chalk art circulated around campus and we wanted to make sure students felt safe on campus. The faculty created the Center as a way to strengthen the peace studies that happen outside of the classroom,” said Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality David Boersema.

Boersema first made contact with Arun Gandhi at a conference for Concerned Philosophers for Peace in 2008. Because of the previous connection he was able to email Gandhi and ask him to speak at Pacific.

Gandhi will be the most renowned speaker the university has hosted since American philosopher Noam Chomsky spoke two years ago, according to Boersema.

Arun Gandhi was born in 1934 in South Africa and was subject to the discriminatory apartheid laws as an adolescent; he was discriminated for being Indian by both “white” and “black” South Africans.

As a result he was sent to live with his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, for two years, where he learned about violence and anger. He now passes these lessons on at an international level.

“What’s great about Arun Gandhi is that he gives some really down to earth examples of what happens in our daily lives relating to violence and anger. It’s not just about violence on a large scale. These are things that happen and effect us every day, like getting cut off in traffic,” said Boersema.

Alongside of speaking to various audiences about peace in a violent world, Arun Gandhi also founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, participating in the Renaissance Weekend Deliberations with President Clinton, and is very involved in social problems and writing.

“He is a very gentle man. When he speaks you can feel that he is sincere and genuinely trying to carry in the legacy of his grandfather. He gets people excited in a sustained way. It is my hope that people will be as inspired by him as I was,” said Boersema.

For those who are not able to attend the event or want to access it later, the university is planning to video tape the speech and put it in the Pacific University’s iTunes page.

Tickets are free to the public but attendees are asked to reserve tickets online at because out of the 1,000 people expected to attend the event, approximately 700 tickets have already been reserved.

Reservations are being accounted from parts of Oregon, Washington and Idaho.


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