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Gandhi, the Failure? - Book Excerpt From 'Soul of a Citizen'

Chief among the obstacles to getting involved in our communities is the mistaken belief that anyone who takes a public stand, at least an effective one, has to be a larger-than-life figure. Yet even historic figures often started in modest ways, and had as many failures as successes.

Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, tells the story of how his grandfather’s family mortgaged everything they had to send Gandhi to law school. Gandhi graduated and passed the bar, but was so shy that when he stood up in court, all he could do was stammer. He lost every one of his cases. He was a total failure. His family sent him off to South Africa, where he found his voice by challenging racial segregation.

I love viewing Gandhi not as the master strategist of social change, but as someone who first was literally tongue-tied, shy and intimidated. Given where he ended up, who knows what might be possible for the rest of us.

Adapted from Soul of a Citizen by Paul Rogat Loeb. Copyright © 2010, reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.