Arun Gandhi learned a lesson from his grandfather as a 12-year-old boy that he never forgot.
"Anger can be like electricity: It's just as useful and it's just as powerful, but only when we use it intelligently and effectively," he said. "Otherwise, it could be deadly."The grandson of Mahatma Gandhi shared that message with a group of Salt Lake area youths and other residents during a visit to the Sorenson Multicultural Center Saturday. After his remarks, Gandhi planted a symbolic peace tree at the Jordan River Peace Trees site, 1140 W. 1700 South.
Gandhi's stop in Salt Lake City is part of the local observance of "A Season for Nonviolence," a national educational campaign seeking to transform communities and defuse conflict.
"I didn't choose Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City chose me," he said. "One thing I learned from grandfather is not to force myself on anybody. When they are ready to hear the message, then I deliver the message."
Gandhi summarized his message to Salt Lake youths like this: "When we are able to control our anger and use it positively, and we are able to create meaningful relationships with each other, then we will be able to reduce violence in our society."
The idea of using anger positively dawned on his grandfather after an occasion when he was humiliated because of his race, Gandhi said. Mahatma Gandhi's anger made him want to use violence, but he rejected that idea because he realized that using violence would not be worthwhile.
"Using anger and violence doesn't help the problem, it only aggravates the problem," Gandhi said. When a person is subjugated to violence, that person will likely seek to become stronger to retaliate, so the cycle of violence continues.
"When we use violence, we don't concentrate on the problem, we concentrate on the person, and we beat up each other and destroy our lives while the problem remains unresolved," Gandhi said.
He offered two suggestions to avoid violence:
"When you feel anger, pour it in your journal, but write with the intent to find a solution."
That should lead to the next step, which is to overcome problems by building relationships based on respect, understanding, acceptance and appreciation, Gandhi said.
"We cannot look at ourselves as individuals that have no connections to anything at all," he said. "Everything and everybody has a role to play in life."
When individuals accept and appreciate each other's differences, then "we understand the humanity within us" and "we get our understanding of who we are and why we are here in the world."
Learning to control anger and building meaningful relationships will help build character in today's youth. Unfortunately, schools today are filling young minds with knowledge but not with the tools to build character, he said.