Arun Gandhi said his grandfather would be troubled by the current violent nature of our world -- but he also said it wouldn't have stopped Mahatma Gandhi from promoting peace. That was the message he offered to students at Redmond Proficiency Academy on Wednesday.
"I don't know if I have the words to express how invaluable this was for our kids," said RPA social studies teacher Brandy Berlin.
Arun Gandhi took a speaking tour of Central Oregon Wednesday, speaking with Redmond students in the afternoon before his talk at COCC that evening.
Gandhi was brought to Bend by the college's College Foundation's Nancy R. Chandler Visiting Scholar Program, as a special part of COCC's 'Season of Nonviolence.'
Gandhi told the high schoolers about lessons of life and nonviolence he learned from his grandfather, and he encouraged the students to promote peace and love in their own lives.
"If we do not have peace in our hearts, we will not be able to create peace in the world," Gandhi said.
He promotes the peace that he didn't have in his own heart as a child. His life now, traveling as a speaker and peace advocate, couldn't be more different from how he grew up in South Africa.
"I was beaten up by whites because they thought I was too black, and I was beaten up by blacks because they thought I was too white," Gandhi said. "And I was so angry and frustrated that I wanted an-eye-for-an-eye justice."
He says he was getting in a lot of fights and trouble growing up, so his parents sent him to live with his grandfather, Mahatama, in India.
Gandhi credits his grandfather for teaching him tolerance and peace. And during his speech, he asked students to practice clearing their minds, saying people can control anger when they learn to control their mind.
He also spoke about the difference of physical violence and passive violence. He said people commit passive violence every day, mostly without even realizing it.
Gandhi said too much passive violence can lead to physical violence in our world.
Berlin said she was deeply moved by Gandhi's speech, and said it was especially important that her students hear his message.
"A lot of our kids today, for a lot of different reasons, carry around a lot of anger," Berlin said. "And they don't know what to do with it. And I find as an educator, it's one of the largest obstacles I face, is breaking through that."
Gandhi also stressed that nobody can change the world alone. It starts with individuals, with communities and grassroots movements.
"I really liked being able to just hear the ideas that he got from his grandfather," said RPA junior Carrie Olson. "And also the things we could do individually, the little things that will end up making a big difference."
Gandhi knows his message won't change everyone. But he also knows changing even just one person can have a huge impact -- he's living proof, thanks to his renowned grandfather.
"If I had not learned those important lessons from him, I shudder to think what my life would be like today," Gandhi said.