Gandhi, Obama, and the simple truth

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At the risk of sounding like a Miss America contestant (“All I really want is world peace”), I’ll admit that one of my favorite books is Gandhi’s autobiography. It’s called "The Story of My Experiments with Truth," and it tells how Gandhi came to understand that simply describing what he knew to be true could be incredibly powerful – powerful enough to bring down the British Empire.I’ve been thinking of Gandhi and his experiments with truth as Obama’s speech in Cairo continues to echo around the globe. One of the most shocking things about it is that the president simply said what was true: the US and the Middle East had been having some trouble recently, and it was time to start talking about it.

Astonishing! I am so used to hearing political language equivocate, obfuscate, defend, accuse, or flatter that I almost didn’t recognize Obama’s as a political speech. Yet, some of the best political writers are truth-tellers: Orwell; Solzhenitsyn; Didion. These writers, like Gandhi, call it like they see it, and even though their perspectives might align with what many people are privately thinking, articulating them takes courage and discipline.

Gandhi wrote in his introduction, “I am not going either to conceal or understate any ugly things that must be told.” It’s a promise that makes not only for interesting reading, but for a better world.

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Kelly Nuxoll is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

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