“It’s the little things that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
– John Woodson
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 – 1948)
What you may know: Honored as father of India, Gandhi established and practiced nonviolent civil disobedience in efforts to resist tyranny and free India from foreign control, while also seeking to improve rights of women and outcasts. What you may not know: At 19, he left India to study law in London. When he returned to India in 1891 to set up a law practice, he was not successful. He then moved to South Africa with his family to work for an Indian firm. His turning point came when he experienced discrimination in South Africa. I encourage you to read the details about his story.
- Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013)
What you may know: Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, who spent 27 years in jail for opposing the racist apartheid system. He was the first president in South Africa elected by a democratic system from 1994 – 1999.
What you may not know: Mandela was the first in his family to receive a formal education. While attending the only higher learning institute for South African blacks, he and fellow peers were sent home for boycotting university policies. He later studied law and became involved in the movement against racial discrimination.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968)
What you may know: Inspired by Gandhi, MLK Jr. was a leading non-violent civil rights leader in the United States. He is known for giving his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in March 1963.
What you may not know: Walter R. McCall, a student who attended Morehouse College with MLK Jr. (who would become his best friend) recalled King as an “ordinary student” and stated, “I don’t think [King] took his studies very seriously, but seriously enough to get by.”
So, what do I mean I say big names started small? Well, just that. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many more global leaders did not become known as they are with the snap of a finger. They were all once in our shoes, starting off at a local level, within their family, within their community, or within their university. If they were able to impact the world starting off smaller than where they ended, then can’t we all?