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Ambassador Ronen Sen holds gala reception to commemorate the 77 th birth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; announces annual lecture to honour legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Washington, DC
January 15, 2006

Ambassador Ronen Sen held a black tie reception on the evening of January 14, 2006 to commemorate the 77th birth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The reception held at the Embassy Residence was attended by a large gathering of prominent African Americans from different parts of the United States and others who had been closely associated with Dr. King and had met Mahatma Gandhi. 

The gala event was organized in partnership with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Day Committee Incorporated. Some Governors and US Congressmen sent special messages on the occasion expressing appreciation for this first ever initiative by the Indian Embassy to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King. The messages also drew attention to the role played by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation in inspiring the life and work of Dr. King.

Speaking on the occasion, Sen said Dr. King’s legacy was close to the hearts of the people of India. He recalled the visit of Dr. King and Mrs. King to India in 1959 as guests of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. Indians gathered in multitudes to greet Dr. King wherever he went and were inspired and entranced by his message of universal brotherhood. Describing Dr. King as an apostle of peace and human dignity, Ambassador Sen said his inspired -“I have a dream” speech in 1963 would resonate in the ears of generations to come.

Sen recalled that Mahatma Gandhi’s experience in South Africa had deeply influenced his thinking. He added that he was proud to have worked under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who felt that India’s independence would not be complete as long as apartheid existed in South Africa and till Namibia; the last bastion of colonialism in Africa achieved its independence. Sen said Rajiv Gandhi’s relentless efforts and leadership role in influencing international efforts to achieve these goals was recognized by his presence at the Namibian Independence Day in 1990 as the only non Head of Government who was treated as a special guest 

At the end of his remarks, Sen announced the decision of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to sponsor an annual lecture to honor the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and to be delivered by prominent people from the two countries, alternately in India and the United States.

Mr. James Speight, President, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Day Committee Inc also addressed the gathering and introduced the winners of an essay competition for school students organized by the Committee on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In his remarks, Mr. Speight called upon members of the African American community to create violence free neighborhoods and to take a pledge of non violence. 

Mr. Nirmal Sinha, Civil Rights Commissioner of Ohio read out on the occasion messages of congratulations from Governor Bob Taft of Ohio and also Senator George Voinovich who was associated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.