Gandhi influenced important leaders and political movements. Leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, including Martin Luther King and James Lawson, drew from the writings of Gandhi in the development of their own theories about non-violence. Anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was inspired by Gandhi. Others include Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Steve Biko, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Benigno Aquino, Jr. (the Philippine opposition leader during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos).
“Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics.” – Martin Luther King Jr, 1955
Gandhi’s life and teachings inspired many who specifically referred to Gandhi as their mentor or who dedicated their lives to spreading Gandhi’s ideas. In Europe, Romain Rolland was the first to discuss Gandhi in his 1924 book Mahatma Gandhi, and Brazilian anarchist and feminist Maria Lacerda de Moura wrote about Gandhi in her work on pacifism.
In 1931, notable European physicist Albert Einstein exchanged written letters with Gandhi, and called him “a role model for the generations to come” in a later writing about him.
Lanza del Vasto went to India in 1936 intending to live with Gandhi; he later returned to Europe to spread Gandhi’s philosophy and founded the Community of the Ark in 1948 (modelled after Gandhi’s ashrams). Madeleine Slade (known as “Mirabehn”) was the daughter of a British admiral who spent much of her adult life in India as a devotee of Gandhi.
In addition, the British musician John Lennon referred to Gandhi when discussing his views on non-violence. At the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in 2007, former U.S. Vice-President and environmentalist Al Gore spoke of Gandhi’s influence on him. Finally, prior to becoming President of the United States, then-Senator Barack Obama noted that:
“Throughout my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things. That is why his portrait hangs in my Senate office: to remind me that real results will come not just from Washington—they will come from the people.”
Obama at the Wakefield High School speech in Sept 2009, said that his biggest inspiration came from Mahatma Gandhi. It was when a question posed on him as ‘who was the one person, dead or live, that he would choose to dine with?’ and his quick reply was ‘Gandhi!’. He continued and said that – “He’s somebody I find a lot of inspiration in. He inspired Dr. King with his message of nonviolence. He ended up doing so much and changed the world just by the power of his ethics”.
The Mahatma Gandhi District in Houston, Texas, United States, an ethnic Indian enclave, is named after Gandhi. The district officially received its named on 16 January 2010 when the City of Houston held a naming ceremony.