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'Without Gandhi, there would be no Obama as president'

"I surely believe without (Mahatma) Gandhi - without Gandhi in India - there would be no Barack Obama as president" of the United States. So said John Lewis, an American civil rights movement leader and a close friend of the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

world Updated: Oct 08, 2009 22:00 IST

"I surely believe without (Mahatma) Gandhi - without Gandhi in India - there would be no Barack Obama as president" of the United States.

So said John Lewis, an American civil rights movement leader and a close friend of the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr, at a Capitol Hill event on Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr King and his wife Coretta Scott King's visit to India.

"There is a trend, there is a strain, there is what I call the spirit of history, and every now and then in the history of humankind, that spirit strikes down some embodiment of change - some force," said Lewis, a member of the US House of Representatives.

"I think it was Englishman Arnold Toynbee who had suggested that it may be in the end, the American Negro who would take the message of Gandhi to the Western world," said Lewis, who marched with Dr King in Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s.

"Martin Luther King, Jr, became the embodiment and we followed him," added Lewis, who was one of the awardees at Wednesday's event also celebrating the partnership between the Indian-American, Jewish-American and African-American communities.

The event was co-hosted by the American-Jewish Committee, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured Peoples, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and the newly formed US-Asian Organisation.

Indian Ambassador to US Meera Shankar said the historic visit of the Kings to India 50 years ago and the 50th anniversary journey "that Congressman Lewis led in February this year remind us of the values and ideals that bond our two great democracies and also our struggles and our triumphs."

She lauded Lewis's proposal in the US Congress "to set up a Gandhi-King scholarly exchange initiative focusing on peace and non-violence and global conflict resolution."

The Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative Act of 2009 introduced by Lewis on July 24 is now pending before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.