URI sponsoring essay contest in honor of Gandhi

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KINGSTON, R.I. – September 29, 2010 – In honor of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, the University of Rhode Island is holding an essay contest to acknowledge and celebrate the teachings of the father of India’s independence.

Sponsored by URI’s Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, URI’s Honors Program and the India Association of Rhode Island, the contest will open on Oct. 2, Gandhi’s birthday, and be due on Jan. 17, 2011, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is open to all eighth grade students in Rhode Island.

“The dates of the contest are extremely important,” said Ruby Dholakia, URI business professor and coordinator of the contest. “Students are aware of Martin Luther King, Jr. but not aware of where he learned his non-violent approach to social protest. It will be a good opportunity to expose children at an early age to nonviolence on personal and global levels.”

The essay prompt, a short vignette about Gandhi provided by the essay contest committee, is as follows:

“Once while Mahatma Gandhi’s train was pulling slowly out of the station, a European reporter ran up to his compartment window. ‘Do you have a message I can take back to my people,’ he asked. It was Gandhi’s day of silence, a vital respite from his demanding speaking schedule, so he didn’t reply. Instead he scrawled a few words on a scrap of paper and passed it to the reporter. ‘My life is my message.’”

Students are being asked to explain what it means, how they will make their life a message and personal examples of what they or others can do to make the world a better place. Essays will be judged on how well the prompt is answered. The judges are looking for thoughtful and well-written essays. Decisions will be announced May 1, 2011.

The essay committee chose to target eighth grade student since they are at an influential period in their lives and lessons about nonviolence at this age would be particularly valuable at both a personal as well as a global level. Along with reaching out to students, the committee is hopeful teachers will incorporate the contest into their curriculum for both English and social studies and encourage student participation.

For more information about the essay contest, please contact GandhiEssay@etal.uri.edu.

This release was written by Alicia Blain, an intern in URI’s Department of Communications and Marketing and a public relations major.