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Giriraj Rao receives GA Governor’s 2007 Award in Humanities

Giriraj Rao with GA Governor Sonny Perdue Giriraj Rao, co-founder and executive director of Gandhi Foundation U.S.A. and the first Indian-American who has made a home in Georgia since 1973, was among the 10 Georgia individuals and three State organizations who were honored by Georgia Governor, Sonny Perdue at a dignified and impressive 22nd Governor’s Awards in the Humanities, at the Luncheon Ceremony organized by Georgia Humanities Council (GHC) on May 10, 2007. Each spring the Georgia Humanities Council honors the “humanities heroes” of Georgia State. They are presented to individuals and organizations who build community, character and citizenship through their efforts in humanities education.
 Giriraj Rao with Georgia governor Sonny Perdue.

The Celebrations at the Old Georgia Railroad Depot, Atlanta, was well attended by the Board Members of the Gandhi Foundation of USA, family and friends of Giriraj Rao. The proceedings began at 10.30 a.m. with the Humanities Lecture delivered this year by Mr. Timothy Crimmins and Mrs. Anne Farrisee. Dr. Jamil Zainaldin ,President,GHC welcomed all and introduced Mr.Crimmins, a Prof. of History at Georgia State University and co-author of Democracy Restored: A History of the Georgia State Capitol, published by the University of Georgia Press; and Mrs. Farrisee, the Director of Easements, Atlanta Inc. and Historian for the Georgia State Capitol and also the co-author of the aforementioned book. With the help of a slide show, both learned scholars took turns to narrate the colorful history, architecture, and renovation of the magnificent State Capitol of Georgia, as well as the dramatic events that shaped and reshaped the State’s historic march to democracy, highlighting the impact of Civil Rights Movement and contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr. Following GA State Senator, George Hook’s remarks on his efforts to get funding for the badly needed restoration of the State Capitol building, members of the Commission for the preservation of GA State Capitol were recognized.

The Awards Luncheon began in the adjoining packed dining Hall, with the welcome remarks by Dr. Lucretia Payton-Stewart, Chair, GHC. Following a moving invocation prayer by Dr.Robert Franklin,Jr.President-Elect, Morehouse College, Dr.Zainaldin, spoke about the mission of the GHC and recognized the Gold Patron Sponsor, Aflac, Inc.and lecture sponsor, Lord Aeck and Sargent Architecture. He further recognized celebrations and table sponsors. Smartly dressed students in white uniforms and red berets, from Chesnut Elementary Charter School, Dekalb County led the presentation of colors and the pledge of allegiance and Ms. Bess Lights of Sopranos Two Times Two sang the National Anthem.

Mr. Joey Loudermilk, Executive Vice-President, AFLAC and Co-Chair, 2007 Governor’s Awards in the Humanities introduced the GA Governor, Hon. Sonny Perdue.

Hon. Perdue, said that the Awards in Humanities affords an opportunity to look back at history and learn about social issues, progress in technology, spread of religion, politics etc.” History and humanities help us learn about ourselves-nature of man, love, and unfortunately about wars too. We can learn of the success and mistakes of those who went before us. The people we honor today symbolize triumph of human spirit. These heroes preserve that spirit with their individual efforts. They pass along old stories and make new stories as they move on. They remind us where we come from and inspire us to choose where we may go, based on their experiences. Our Georgia State is a richer state, because of their efforts and accomplishments. We all have a common goal of sharing our legacy, history and diversity. Soon we will be celebrating 150th anniversary of Civil War. We have to be ready to welcome the heritage tourists to our State’s battlefields, museums and memorials. Last January we made an amazing discovery. Buried in our archives, we found the original record of the Declaration of Independence, which had survived two wars and my election” (he quipped). He thanked Dr.Zainaldin and applauded GHC for “stirring our imagination, stimulating our intellect and enriching our spirit.”

The Hon. Governor Perdue then presented specially designed medallions to the awardees including Giriraj Rao. Born in Madras (now Chennai) Mr.Rao graduated from the University of Madras with B.Sc.and M.Sc.Degree in Biochemistry in 1946 and M.S.Degree in Food Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. While a student in India, he participated in the “Quit India” campaign of Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1950 Mr.Rao immigrated to the United States and was with the Coca Cola company for 32 years. He was the principal investigator, Corporate Research and Development, when he retired in 1986.

He has spent many years of his life in educating youth and adults in and around Atlanta and across the United States about the life and philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. Under his leadership, the Gandhi Foundation hosts many cultural lectures and extended programs about Indian people and culture. He is responsible for working with Mrs.Coretta Scott King to refurbish the Gandhi Room in the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and led a national task force for installing the Gandhi statue at the Martin Luther King National Historic Site. He pioneered the establishment of the Gandhi Room at the India Cultural and Religious Center in Smyrna and made possible the installation of an exhibition on the life of Gandhi at the Georgia State Capitol. He was the Executive Vice-President of IACA (1986) and Chairman of the Board (1989); President of Asia-Pacific American Council of Georgia, APAC (1989), trustee of the National Federation of Indian Associations, (1992), in charge of Gandhi projects in the US. He had the privilege and honor to be a part of the delegation that attended the celebration of life ceremony of Coretta Scott King. Mr.Rao's immense contribution in building bridges was recognized by The Friends of Sweet Auburn with an Award during the “Legends, Heroes and Heroines” recognition luncheon on May 17, 2006. He received Community Service Award from N.F.I.A. at the 14th biennial Convention in Long Beach,California on November 18, 2006. On December 3, 2006, Senior Citizens Program, Inc.gave Mr.Rao an Award for his outstanding community service. Mr. Rao was also included in the exemplary community activists-‘grassroots ‘folks doing ‘extraordinary things’ in a photographic Exhibit, “Bridges: Human Connections” by Carolyn Miller at Rialto Center for the Arts on March 27, 2007.

Dr Zainaldin presented the Honorable Governor Perdue, a copy of ‘Democracy Restored: A History of the GA State Capitol’. Dr.Zainaldin announced that copies of the book would be sent to the Georgia libraries, schools and colleges and proceeds from sales of the book will be used for renovation of the Georgia State Capitol (applause). He also lauded another publication, The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature.

Dr. David Bottoms, Poet Laureate of Georgia, recited one of his poems for Benediction and the program concluded with closing remarks by Dr. Zainaldin. 



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