"It was stressful when I was a teenager. People had all kinds of expectations from me," Arun Gandhi said to an audience Thursday at the University of Central Florida.
The peace activist and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi told a ballroom packed with several hundred people that, during his youth, his grandfather's legacy became so burdensome that he sought advice from his mother.
"She told me a piece of advice that was beautiful," he said.
His mother suggested that he not perceive his grandfather's legacy as a burden, but rather, as a light illuminating the path life has for him.
Growing up in South Africa during apartheid, Gandhi was the victim of racism from both whites and blacks.
"In a time when the country was full of hate, it seemed to me that everybody hated each other and there was no love at all in the world," he said.
"At the age of ten, I was beaten up, first by whites and then by blacks, both of the times because they didn't like the color of my skin."
Gandhi said the discrimination he experienced filled him with so much anger and rage that he considered eye-for-an-eye justice.
It wasn't long before his parents decided to send the young boy to live with his grandfather in India with the hope that he would learn from Mahatma Gandhi's wealth of wisdom.
It was that decision, the 77-year-old peace advocate said, that caused him to embrace the once-burdensome legacy of his grandfather and follow in his footsteps.
"The first lesson that I learned from my grandfather was about understanding my anger and being able to channel that energy into positive action," Gandhi said.
"He told me that anger is like electricity -- it's just as useful and just as powerful as electrical energy is, but only if we use it intelligently," he said.
"It can be just as deadly and destructive if we abuse it."
Mahatma Gandhi utilized this same philosophy in orchestrating a peaceful independence movement against the most expansive empire in human history.
"Grandfather realized that the British needed to be saved from their own imperialism just as much as the Indian people needed to be saved from the British," Gandhi said. "He was able to channel the anger of the people into a non-violent struggle, and within the next twenty years or so they got independence."
Sophomore psychology student Lindsey Aronson said Gandhi's speech inspired her.
"I loved everything he had to say; it was so inspiring," Aronson said. "Peace is the obvious solution for me. I want to go join the Peace Corps now."
The socio-political activist told the audience that both man and nature can be victims of violence.
"We've got to respect nature. We've got to understand that without nature we cannot exist," Gandhi said." We have to be conscious of our own consumption and how we do things."
Environmental studies student Lillie Thomas shares Gandhi's passion for environmental stewardship.
"I'm so into protecting the environment and I believe everything he said today was spot-on," Thomas said. "We need to do a lot more to move conservation forward, but I think it's going to take a while because people seem so stuck in their ways."
Gandhi even expressed his views on the global Occupy movement, which borrows the same nonviolent resistance technique that his grandfather employed in India's independence movement more than 60 years ago.
"They have made it very clear to us what they are against, but they haven't yet made it clear to us what they are for," he said.
"If we don't have something that we are going to replace [the present financial structure] with, what are we going to do? We cannot live in limbo."
Gandhi advised the movement's leaders to clearly state their objectives and to propose a specific solution to the current problem, but he acknowledged that the protestors' motives are well intended.
"Greed is not really a part of human nature," he said.
"It's just that we are so lacking in consideration for other people and so self-centered and selfish that we don't think about anybody else but ourselves."
"If somebody has found peace and if they keep it locked up in their heart for their own personal gains, it will perish with them," Gandhi said. "But if they let it interact with all the elements, it will sprout and grow, and very soon we could have a whole field of peacemakers."
Hannah Zinman, a sophomore studying nursing, said Gandhi's speech was the most inspiring thing that she has heard in a while.
"You can't just find peace within yourself. You have to help distribute it throughout humanity," she said. "It does nothing if you don't share it with anyone."
"I have come here today to give you the grain of wheat that I got from my grandfather," Gandhi said." I hope that you won't let it rot and perish, but let it interact so that all of us together can transform this world and make it a better place for future generations."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun