When listening to some biographies and considering some of the people who made the greatest changes in the modern world I came up with a striking conclusion. When we hear the word ‘warrior’ we often think of a physically intimidating person wearing a suit of armor and brandishing a weapon. We think of prolonged episodes of war and violence that bring about revolutions. It is as if we, as human beings, assume it takes these actions to bring about lasting change. I want to take time to introduce you to two people who prove this theory wrong.
The first is Mahatma Gandhi. An Indian lawyer, he certainly was not what you would consider a physically intimidating fellow. In fact, to me he looks like someone’s friendly grandfather. What he seems to lack in physical strength, he more than makes up for in resolve and determination. After receiving his law degree he went on to fight for civil rights in not one, but two different countries. He did this using hunger strikes and other non-violent means. He was arrested several times in both his Native India as well as South Africa. He took on the British government to fight for the self rule of India. When this happened, the country split in two, divided on religious grounds. As you might imagine as people moved to settle in new locations there was much violence. Gandhi again used non-violent means to try and bring the people together. This was so successful that certain parties felt threatened and he was assassinated at the age of 78.
The second warrior I would like to mention is Fred Rogers. That is a picture of him and his wife above. Again, not someone you would fear meeting in a dark alley. Out of all the things that have been said about Fred Rogers, I would be confident to say this is the first time he has ever been referred to as a warrior. How can I call a soft-spoken host of a children’s television program a warrior? He is proof that you do not have to shout or threaten to get your point, and more important your feelings across. He used calming soft-spoken language to take on tough subjects such as anger, death and divorce and make them not only easy to understand, but less scary for young children. That takes a good deal of bravery to do. I have another more poignant example I would like to share with you.
On May 1st of 1969, Mr. Rogers went to face congress. You see earlier that year president Nixon wanted to slash funding for Public Television. Did Fred Rogers stand before congress to scream and fight against this budget cut? Fight? Yes. Scream? Not at all. Fred fought back using a completely different kind of tactic. He stood in front of one of the more stern congressman who would have not only been completely unmoved by shouting, but may have been even more inclined to cut funding. Instead, Fred discussed the importance of offering children a healthy alternative to the violence they regularly saw on television. He shared the benefits of providing them a safe place to express feelings and help deal with some of the scary things we mentioned above. He even demonstrated the benefit each child receives by sharing the lyrics to one of the songs from the children’s show. The result? The congressman said that it was the first time he had goosebumps in quite a while. After hearing what Fred had to say his reply? “Well I guess you earned that 20 million dollars” Fred had not only saved the program from being cut, but the funding was actually increased.
Here are two great men who took on governments, society, civil rights and came out on top. They owe their victories not to great campaigns of violence and oppression, but to the power of love, faith and a belief in what is right and the need to love one’s neighbor. There are many other great heroes and warriors that have taken nonviolent ways of fighting against the world’s problems. Are you one of them?