On this day in 1888, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born. He was an Indian philosopher and statesman. He was widely admired as a master of the English language, a spellbinding orator, a dynamic leader, and a generous human being.
One of the foremost modern scholars of comparative religion and philosophy, he built a bridge between Eastern and Western thought, showing each to be comprehensible within the terms of the other. While he supported tolerance and peaceful co-existence, his published arguments defending the tenets of Hinduism against the proselytizing of Christianity are powerful and profound.
He was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1940, the first Indian to be thus honored. He served as the first Vice President of India (1952-1962), and became the second President of India (1962-1967). In December, 1964, Pope Paul VI visited India and made him Knight of the Golden Army of Angels, the Vatican’s highest honor for a Head of State.
When Dr. Radhakrishnan became the President of India, he was approached by some of his students and friends who suggested a celebration of his birthday as a holiday.
In reply, he proposed that, “instead of celebrating my birthday separately, it would be my proud privilege if September 5 is observed as Teachers’ Day.” So, thanks to Dr. Radhakrishnan’s dedication to the teaching profession, since 1962, Sept. 5 has been observed as Teachers’ Day.
Unlike in our country, the role of teacher in India is one of the most valued and prestigious and Teacher’s Day is a national holiday.
On Teacher’s Day, students throughout India dress up as their teachers and teach lectures in the classes of the teachers they have chosen represent. Sometimes the teachers sit in their classes as students, remembering when they themselves were students.
Thus, both students as well as teachers get to better understand each other’s role. Also, schools organize entertainment programs for their teachers, including recognition of their teachers’ efforts and achievements.
Today, let us join this enlightened celebration. May we always be willing to be the humble, eager, but sometimes uncertain learner. And may we remember that we teach others through our example, yet we are all life-long students.
Most of all, may we give thanks and honor to all those in our lives who have served as our beloved teachers.