Moses and Gandhi: From “small people” to inspiring leaders


Very often, we admire the brave women and men of history who dared to stand up and lead their people against authoritarian and tyrannical rulers. We are so inspired by their raw courage that sometimes we fail to see that they were just ordinary people like us who felt compelled to act because of the injustice they saw around them.

Throughout history God has used “small people” to achieve miraculous deeds. It is almost as if He was trying to overturn the natural order of things. Most people usually regard the strong – rather than the meek – as the natural inheritors of the earth. When Moses was asked to lead his people out of Egypt, his first reaction was one of horror: he felt his lack of eloquence – some believe that he had a speech impediment or suffered from stammering – would be a major handicap.

This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for the Herald:

I couldn’t help but be struck by the parallels between Moses and Mahatma Gandhi. Like Moses, Gandhi was the unlikeliest of liberators. Frail and odd, he hardly showed any signs of greatness or courage in his early adulthood.

Studying law in England, he was incredibly tongue-tied and couldn’t speak in public to save his life – though he was somehow elected to the Executive Committee of the Vegetarian Society in England. Before long, one of the other committee members approached him, “You talk to me quite all right, but why is it that you never open your lips at a Committee meeting?”

Gandhi thought to himself: Not that I never felt tempted to speak. But I was at a loss to express myself. All the rest of the members appeared to me to be better informed than I.

Once when the Committee was discussing an important issue, Gandhi finally felt compelled to express his own views. How to do it was the question. I had not the courage to speak and I therefore decided to set down my thoughts in writing. I went to the meeting with the document in my pocket. But even with the help of notes written on paper, Gandhi was unable to read it out, so tongue-tied was he. In the end, the President of the Society called on someone else to read out Gandhi’s notes.

His shyness remained with him throughout his law studies in England. “Even when I paid a social call, the presence of half a dozen or more people would strike me dumb.”

And yet, this was the same Gandhi who was called upon to inspire and mobilise the Indians both in South Africa and India. He took on the might of the British Empire – peacefully, through sheer moral force – and won independence.

So you see the striking parallels between Moses and Gandhi as far as their lack of eloquence was concerned. Neither Moses nor Gandhi had the benefit of Toastmasters International training sessions. But when push came to shove, when they heard the “call”, they were transformed into men of courage who would eventually free their people from domination and imperialism.

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The lessons we all can learn from the History of Mankind is that we in our lifetime’s do need to at times stand up for our rights and fight to keep them, in any way possible. Tyranny and dictatorship thrives when the common citizens suffer in silence without protest and take it all in their stride, thinking that they should not rock the boat or speak up against the ‘Ulul Amri’ @ the Rulers. What is the use of having lived but be a silent sufferer all along one’s life without championing the cause of the downtrodden citizens? We live… Read more »