Friday, March 27, 2009

Me and William Easterly

During the course of my short life, I've had the unique privilege of meeting some very interesting and innovative people, and one of these people is Dr. William Easterly here's a quick bio on him that WVU did as a press release. On Tuesday March 24th, he came to West Virginia University as part of the University's Festival of Ideas. From what I hear, his lecture was the most well received of the festival, and it was filled with people who were thinkers.

Among them was my buddy Jake Harriman. Jake and another friend, John Hancox, started a non-profit called Nuru International. If you haven't heard of it, you probably haven't talked to me much in the last couple of years. I'm a big fan!

Anyway, as part of Dr. Easterly's visit, folks from Nuru's campus chapter, some of the folks from our grassroots movement staff (and Jake and myself) were able to grab lunch with Dr. Easterly too.

It was incredible. Jake and I actually picked him up at the hotel to take him to lunch. One of the foremost economists in the world traveled in the passenger seat of my civic hybrid. (I guess I'm a bit of an amateur economist myself.) So as we drove to the Mountainlair for lunch, we talked about Dr. Easterly's Morgantown roots, his need for a WV hat (he was wearing a yankees hat when we met him), and how much his writings and thinking had influenced Nuru as we entered the fight to help rural communities generate bottom-up sustainable solutions to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

During the lunch, I sat in awe as Jake and Dr. Easterly exchanged ideas and talked about real solutions for real people in this world. I was humbled to sit in the presence of these two great thinkers who originated from our great state. I'm even more humbled that I could potentially call these guys my friends.

Jake lived in my dorm my freshman year of college, but our friendship has really started to blossom as we have begun working together to end extreme poverty, together, one community at a time. And I didn't know Dr. Easterly until Tuesday, but we have a common interest in the history of this land. My family is Shawnee, but his family traces back to Michael Cresap, an early frontiersman. Back then, our families were on opposite sides of the fight, but now, we have joined forces to inspire the citizens of the developed world to confront the crisis of extreme poverty and to begin to encourage the ending of extreme poverty from the bottom-up."

I know this blog is long, but there is so much I want to say. So many aspects of Tuesday March 24th that I want to remember. I want to remember watching Dr. Easterly sign my book, and I want to remember being identified by name from a crowd of three hundred.

I want to remember hearing him say that what the poor do not need are empty promises, paternalism, top-down solutions from planners, and the like. I want to remember him saying that what all people need is to be treated as equals, to be given opportunities, and to be empowered to make changes for themselves.

I want to remember how Nuru is doing that very thing. I want to remember how good ideas can catch on, and how people whose ancestors may have been enemies can unite to fight a common enemy.

I want to remember the day that I saw Nuru's founder meet one of the most influential thinkers in the world on the subject of extreme poverty.

I want to remember eating lunch and listening to ideas being shared from the second floor of the Mountainlair at West Virginia University.

I want to remember, because I believe I just participated in a historic moment. I was there for all of this.

I was also there for the first time William Easterly wore the gold and blue during this auspicious rendez-vous in the mountains. (and we captured that moment with a camera too!)

I'm humbled by the great minds I've met during this short life, and I'm grateful for days like Tuesday.

It's good to take time and reflect. There are beautiful moments every day, and often we are so busy, we miss em.

1 comment:

Ricky said...

I must say, that is a mighty fine picture. Great post!