ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gandhi in the Mind of America

Gandhi first entered American public consciousness in 1921 when John Haynes Holmes declared him to be the greatest man in the world. Eighty years later, Time's 31 December 1999 end-of-thecentury issue named Gandhi (along with Albert Einstein and Franklin Roosevelt) as "Person of the Century". Gandhi has re-entered American consciousness with the recent visit to India of an American president who, in his Nobel Peace Prize speech of 10 December 2009, made clear that he admired and learned from Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

My title is figurative, not literal; Gandhi never set foot on American soil. His presence is the r esult of American responses to his p erson, ideas, and practice. For some Americans, they were exotic, often alien; for others, they were a source of learning and inspiration, and for still others threatening, even subversive.

With the conclusion of President Barack Obama’s three-day visit to India, Gandhi once again returns to American consciousness, not least because the president made clear in his Nobel Peace Prize speech on 10 December 2009 that Gandhi was an i mportant part of his thinking about world affairs, a matter to which I will return.

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