Washington Washington's newest statue, a larger-than-life figure of Mohandas Gandhi, was officially dedicated this weekend by President Clinton and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in a small park across from the Indian Embassy.
The ceremony Saturday was short, about 10 minutes, and quiet. There were no microphones, no musical fanfares, no speeches. But the symbolism was strong as Clinton and Vajpayee threw rose petals at the feet of the man whose name has become synonymous with civil disobedience.
"It's very important for the United States to make a memorial to Gandhi," Clinton said after the dedication. "Gandhi provided the inspiration to Martin Luther King, which spread to the civil-rights movement and brought an end to the business of slavery and brought integrity to the democratic ideal."
The statue, just under 9 feet tall, stands on a 16-ton block of rough-hewn granite from India. It shows a lean, bespectacled Gandhi in full stride, pushing forward against a walking stick in a scene recalling his 1930 march to the sea to protest an increased salt tax by the British.
The robed, sandaled figure faces north, toward the British Embassy about a mile away. The inscription below it is spare: "My Life Is My Message."
No other country "has been more influenced by India than the United States," said Clinton, who learned about Gandhi at 17 or 18 through King's writings about nonviolent resistance.
In 1947 India gained its independence, largely as a result of Gandhi's success in uniting millions of people across India in a mass movement of civil disobedience. Assassinated the next year, the spiritual and political leader remains a symbol of hope in India and for Indians who have immigrated to other countries.
Other statues of Gandhi have been erected at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta and in several other U.S. cities, including New York, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Houston and St. Louis.