Thom Green: In Gandhi's Footsteps

Written by David Green.


As eighth grade geography teacher Thom Green works his way through the school year in White Bear Lake, Minn., he always looks forward to his favorite unit: Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian independence movement.

tom-green Next month, the former Morenci resident will gain some firsthand experience that should change his teaching forever. He and his wife, Ginny, will embark for India to retrace Gandhi’s famous 1930 Salt March to the sea.

“Students seem to enjoy learning about Gandhi and I like to teach about him,” Thom said. “Shortly after finishing the unit this year, I received information about the Fund for Teachers grant. It seemed like a perfect fit.”

Ginny says it was a long shot chance to win a grant for a teacher’s summer dream proposal, but the St. Paul-based foundation latched onto the plan and offered $3,500 for a two-week study trip. An educational foundation in White Bear Lake added another $950 to cover the cost of an additional four days in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) so Thom could interview a great-grandson of Gandhi, visit a Gandhi museum and research center, and tour several holy sites.


The plan to retrace portions of Gandhi’s 240-mile Salt March—a protest against the British salt tax that proved to be a key incident in India’s move toward independence—could be in jeopardy due to weather conditions.

In a letter from Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson, Thom was cautioned about what he will encounter.

“I don’t think it’s advisable for you to come in August,” Gandhi wrote. “At the moment the entire area throughout the route of the Salt March is reeling under unprecedented floods. Parts of the region have been cut off from the rest of the country. Trains are now just beginning to ply. There is massive damage.”

And this was still in July, the very beginning of the wet monsoon season. Historically, Gandhi said, August is the period of the most intense storms.

If the trip can’t be postponed, Gandhi said, he’s willing to help in whatever way possible, such as in securing a guide to accompany the visitors.

“We may not be able to do any walking at all,” Thom said. “We would spend time in Ahmedabad [the home of Gandhi’s original ashram] and Mumbai, and drive out into the countryside where there are no floods.”

The monsoons are just one challenge, Thom said. There’s also the possibility of illness from local parasites, language difficulties and dealing with the poverty he’ll experience.

Teaching potential

Thom looks at the adventure as a means of strengthening his classroom work. Walking the countryside of India will offer an understanding of the culture unlike any other mode of travel. He expects to interact with shopkeepers, farmers and children along the way to acquire a firsthand understanding of Indian life.

“As a social studies teacher, this opportunity will fuel my desire for bridging the difference between cultures,” he said. “This should lead my students to steps of understanding those different from themselves.”

Thom intends to videotape interviews with Gandhi specialists and relatives, and most importantly, with everyday people. He has already contacted several schools along the route hoping to establish cultural exchanges.

Thom would also like to instigate service projects with his students to collect materials for poorly-supplied Indian schools. He noted Gandhi’s well-known statement that poverty is the worst form of violence.

Finally, the trip will serve as somewhat of a pilgrimage for Thom, himself.

“Walking on the same ground walked by Mahatma Gandhi will bring me closer to a man from whose life I continually receive inspiration,” Thom said. “The more I read about Mahatma Gandhi, the more questions I have about his life and his movement of non-violent resistance.”

Thom serves as a role-model to his students and there are times when he turns to Gandhi as a model of tolerance.

“At times when I find myself losing control,” he said, “thinking of how Gandhi remained calm and steadfast gives me strength.”

He tries to model Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence and peace right in his own classroom.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” Gandhi said.

Thom has made the decision to act.

  - July 27, 2005
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016