Lessons in Humility from the Humble Heroes of the World Food Prize
This year, on the anniversary of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s death, the staff and interns at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates received an email from Amb. Kenneth Quinn about a special memory he has of Dr. Borlaug. Amb. Quinn shared with us the time he and Dr. Borlaug were in Oslo celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize saying, “As they took the group photo, I thought to myself how remarkable it was [that] Norm had probably saved more lives by himself than all of the other Laureates assembled there put together. And yet he was far from the most well-known or most celebrated. Such was his humility.” This humility Amb. Quinn speaks of is what I believe is really at the heart of this Prize.
From June through October of 2018 I was an intern for the World Food Prize Director of Secretariat Operations Ellen Franzenburg, and my chief task was planning and executing the 2018 World Food Prize Laureate Lecture Series. The Lecture Series is an annual occurrence of lectures across central Iowa featuring the World Food Prize’s distinguished Laureates and scholars.
While planning the Series, I was in constant contact with nearly 20 venues and speakers, and I coordinated each lecture during World Food Prize Week. Before a speaker would leave for their lecture, it was my job to meet the speaker in the lobby of the Marriott, then make sure they got in the correct car. Through this, I got to know many Laureates, and what struck me the most was exactly what Amb. Quinn noted about Dr. Borlaug—humility. I observed this in every Laureate, Borlaug Field Award Recipient, and distinguished guest in attendance at the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium this past October.
The amazing people I met have fed thousands if not millions of people, and they were the most unassuming individuals at the Dialogue. If you did not know who they were, then you would assume that they were a general attendee. On many occasions, I would be speaking to Laureates before their lecture departure, asking about their time here in Des Moines and the work they have done. In turn, they would ask me about my life and studies, never turning the subject back to themselves. Each of them could have rightfully talked about themselves and their impressive work, but they cared about the person they were talking to and had been emailing with for weeks, and they made themselves available for discussions with whoever wished to speak with them whether that be in the hotel coffee shop or between Symposium sessions. They all cared more about others than themselves, so I guess it’s not surprising that they are feeding the world.
I have learned so much from these Laureates, Dr. Borlaug’s humility, and the humility of this prize. No person is more important than another. No one deserves food more than another. It is the duty of all to provide food for one another.