The World Food Prize Foundation

The Borlaug Blog

Inspiring the Next Generation through Teaching like Borlaug

By Tricia Reichert
2019 World Food Prize "Inspiring the Next Generation" Award Recipient

I doubt Dr. Norman Borlaug ever thought of himself as a teacher or a leader or set out to save more lives than any other human. This humble Iowa farm boy grew up with the Midwestern work ethic and valued education. As a plant breeder pathologist, his doctorate degree could have easily allowed him a career in a well-appointed laboratory, but instead Dr. Borlaug accepted the task of organizing and directing the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program in Mexico. His work in rural Mexico took him away from his wife and young children for long stretches of time and it also took him away from many modern conveniences. Nevertheless, he worked tirelessly through breeding hybrids to find a high-yielding, short-stalked, disease-resistant wheat. 

The scientist soon also became a humanitarian as he realized the importance of involving the local Mexican scientists and farmers in helping to realize his goal of producing a higher yielding wheat necessary to feed the hungry. Never blinded by profit, position or fame, Dr. Borlaug was able to extent his agricultural humanitarian efforts in many countries of the world in what we now refer to as the “Green Revolution,” where it is said that he has “saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived” by preventing hunger and famine.

Dr. Borlaug’s story of a small town boy making a positive global impact is one that I love to share with my high school sophomores. Too often I see young people who lack direction, but I sometimes think this is due to their fear of not knowing the path they should take. Dr. Borlaug didn’t have his life’s path all figured out either. He encountered difficult roadblocks like not being from a wealthy family and the additional economic hardships of the Great Depression, but he persevered to do his personal best. Education opened many doors of opportunity for him and his clear thinking and compassion for others motivated him to do more than he probably ever thought possible. 

Dr. Borlaug was a great teacher in that he worked alongside those who needed  his help and encouraged everyone he came across to do their personal best. He unselfishly gave his personal best and politely expected others to do likewise. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Borlaug personally, but I share his story and his vision to the entire sophomore class each year in my Biology class. By sharing Dr. Borlaug’s legacy, I try to challenge today’s youth as individuals, community members and as members of a global society to become empowered hunger fighters in their own capacity. Not only would Dr. Borlaug approve, but I’m pretty sure he would challenge us all to do just a bit more than we thought possible!

12/02/2019 8:00 AM |Add a comment |Comments (1)
Very well written! Dr. Borlaug’s legacy to all of us is one of not only work ethics but meeting work challenges and diversities! He was always willing to be not only a wonderful teacher but also an active learner- that is what helped make his work so successful! Thank you so much for sharing his legacy with students!

Diane Nelsen | | 12/02/2019 11:30 PM
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