Chicago Speech on Response to Welcome

Swami Vivekananda felt his purpose was to promote Yoga and Vedic Philosophy to western cultures. As fate would have it, he was able to journey to America where he secured an invitation to the World's Parliament of Religions, a 'conference' held in Chicago in September, 1893. This Parliament's aim was to foster a conversation about religion - all types of religions - among the learned attendees.

The Swami's first speech was delivered on September 11, 1893. It was his "Response to Welcome" speech and it truly was something special. He opened the speech with the words: "Sisters and Brothers of America". These words were met with thunderous applause and a lengthy standing ovation. Bear in mind, race riots and racial segregation were the norm at that time. I would imagine such an unintimidated greeting by an East Indian to start his maiden speech on American soil was probably most refreshing and intriguing to the conference's audience.

Once the applause ceased, he (as a member of the "most ancient of monks") continued his speech by warmly thanking the speakers and organizers of the conference. He noted that he had great pride in being part of a tolerant, all-encompassing religion (Hinduism) that sheltered and protected persecuted refugees of other faiths.

He went on to suggest that society should not succumb to bigotry or fanaticism before realizing all paths - "crooked or straight" - eventually lead to God.

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This post initially provided the full text version of Swami Vivekananda's "Response to Welcome" speech. However, this can be found on several related sites including Wikisource. Therefore, in an effort to reduce online duplication, the Wikisource link is given below:

Response to Welcome Speech

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One image quote on Swami Vivekananda Quotes is from this speech. Here is the context of this quote:

". . . The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me."

Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.

But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal."