14 September 2009

'Reach for the Stars'

Rounding out the weekend news, rapper Kanye West once again proved what a gentleman he is, Brett Favre threw 110 yards in Sunday’s game, and a man who saved millions of lives died. Which one do you think most people are aware of?
I admit, I hadn’t heard of Norman Borlaug until before this weekend, but after I did, I was amazed that I hadn’t before. Simply put, Borlaug developed a hardier type of grain in the 1960s, which possibly saved millions of lives in India and Asia. He was honored with a Nobel Prize in 1970. According to an Associated Press obituary, one of his favorite sayings was “'Reach for the stars. Although you will never touch them, if you reach hard enough, you will find that you get a little 'star dust' on you in the process.” It sounds really, really dorky, especially in this cynical age, to talk about ‘star dust,’ but this man did just exactly that – he touched the stars when his work ended up saving many, many lives.
Admittedly, there is nothing sexy about grain. Even when measured against other forms of produce, grain is the Chevy Cavalier of contenders: it’s reliable and plain, and gets you from A to B without any fuss. But life as we know it would not be possible without it. And in places like India and Asia, where population combined with limited farmland creates a potential starvation bomb, this is even truer.
I hear no keening for Norman Borlaug. Like I said, I hadn’t heard of him before Saturday, a week after he died. But I do find it sad, to ply a common cliché, that more people could recount Brett Favre, an insignificant (in the scope of history) sports player than they could the life of a man whose efforts helped humanity. Even in his 90s, when an average person may have been tempted to slow down, he still worked.
“We still have a large number of miserable, hungry people and this contributes to world instability,” he said in May 2006 at an Asian Development Bank forum in the Philippines. “Human misery is explosive, and you better not forget that.”
Borlaug – it doesn’t roll off the tongue, and his work wasn’t glamorous. But I think we’d all do well to remember someone who contributed so much to the world, even if many people in that world didn’t have a clue who he was.

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