Wangari Maathai Speaks in Brattleboro

Taking Root
Taking Root

On Saturday, April 11, Nobel peace laureate and World Learning Trustee Emerita Wangari Maathai answered audience questions and signed copies of her book, The Challenge for Africa, at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro.

Current MAT student Elisabeth Yesko was among many who attended the event and shares her thoughts and impressions here.

Maathai’s work has been documented by filmmakers Lisa Merton (MAT alumna, 1989) and Alan Dater.  This film will be broadcast in the US on PBS stations in April 2009.

For more on Maathai’s work, visit The Green Belt Movement.

I was deeply inspired by the visit of Wangari Maathai to Brattleboro last Saturday afternoon.  Although I had a lot of work to do for my MAT classes, I felt it important to at least be in the presence of someone on whom the Nobel Peace Prize has been bestowed.  I wanted to know the human qualities that might inspire me as a teacher and educator.  Inspire she did.

Wangari is a commanding presence — a light unto the world.  She was very generous with her time and spoke about her life with dignity and courage.  When a student from The Putney School asked about her experience of having traveled to Japan and learned about their cultural sensitivity known as “mottainai” which translates as “having or showing respect,” I understood why she received the Nobel Peace Prize.

As we were leaving the Latchis Theatre, I asked the young Japanese student how to spell this word…..”mottainai”, he wrote it down on a piece of paper that also had the words of the song, “Amazing Grace” in English and a Kikuyu translation. The audience sang the song for Ms Maathai with the Guilford Community Chorus, led by Lise Sparrow (MAT alumna 1976 and former SIT faculty).  It was a joy to be held in our hearts.

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