ICCTA Gandhi/King Peace Essay Scholarship

Zuhairullah Syed

College of DuPage
2021 Recipient

Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King were revolutionary heroes who inspired all of humanity to dream and create a world that values human rights above all. Gandhi's leadership influenced the world as his non-violence movement liberated India from British rule and forever changed the course of history. Dr. King was the strongest voice of the Civil Rights Movement and his life bequeathed us all with an altruistic role model to look to. Like Gandhi and Dr. King, we too, must endeavor to live our lives, striving for freedom and justice, especially for those who have been marginalized and left without a voice.

We must identify the shared principles of Gandhi and Dr. King and connect them to the world we live in. Gandhi said, "Non-violence is the summit of bravery." I believe bravery is to seek justice with the end goal of change that serves as a movement, uniting people. Together, we are strengthened to strive in the path of truth and maximize our impact in this world. We must not succumb our minds or means to direct or indirect societal ills and injustices, namely indoctrination and violence. To do so, we must engage in civil discourse and seek to understand and learn from each other. On campus, this would translate to engaging in dialogue with courage and candor for fostering: interfaith, intercultural, race, gender, socio-political and economic relations. The key is not simply in relations -- it is in building relationships that transcend and value what makes us different from one another.

Dr. King said, “At the center of non-violence, stands the principle of love." It is love for humanity that guides our way to truth and justice. Bringing diverse people and communities together to foster a culture of non-violence, unity and multiculturalism is deeply compelling to me. As a community college student, I believe education facilitates opportunities for us to strive in the path of the civil rights movement of our time and that is—to advocate for love, respect and the rights of all. As a member of my college's Multicultural Center Committee focus group, I recognized the need for equity-focused work and contributed to developing the mission for a place on campus that will promote these values.

The legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King thrives in the hearts of all people who strive to uphold peace and freedom. I volunteer as a tutor and mentor for refugee children through the non-profit organization “Forging Opportunities for Refugees in America (“FORA”). This helped me realize firsthand that education is liberation and in liberation, we find empowerment. Educating our youth about non-violence and compassion strengthens our communities. I believe our today is perpetually built upon the legacies of Gandhi and Dr. King as they impart upon us the work of social justice, perseverance in the face of adversity and the value of living a life in which we can, like Gandhi, affirm, "My life is my message."

I strive for such a today and aspire to live such a life.