In the wheelchair, he seemed like an ordinary man. The steel metal shined bright and the wheels were moving in a forward direction.

It was a 2008, my husband volunteered to take my father to the radiation oncologist for a check-up. As he walked the hallway with my father, an elderly man passed by. The radiation oncologist asked him, “Do you know who that is?” He only caught a glimpse, the bald head and white shirt his only clues as to who he may be.

My husband replied, “No, I have no idea who he is.”  With an even tone, the oncologist said, ” That is Norman Borlaug. He is a Nobel Prize Winner.”

The conversation ended here, the purpose of this visit dedicated to my father. The shock of coming across a Nobel Peace Prize winner didn’t disappear for my husband. When he returned home and after he relayed the story over to me, we were both curious about Mr. Borlaug.

What we learned was that he was no ordinary man. He was dubbed the father of the Green Revolution and was credited for saving hundreds of millions of lives throughout the world. His pioneering work in developing high yield, disease resistant wheat field provided a way for third-world countries to much improved food production. Consequently, people were able to survive because of his advances in crop production. His Nobel Peace Prize was given to him because he promoted world peace by increasing the world’s food supply. People point to him as changing the world, although he spent much of his life deflecting praise.

Mr Borlaug died in 2009 at age 95. His name has come up in books and now I know who he was and what he did and how he changed life for millions of people. I think of what he did and how he has left the world in a better place.  Through my research on Mr. Borlaug, I’ve learned he came from humble beginnings, he didn’t really seek success or fame, but he loved what he did. When he learned he won the Nobel Peace Prize, he thought it was a joke.

I think about Mr. Borlaug and how he has impacted the world. And how I didn’t know about him or his impact, until my husband crossed paths with him. He made a global difference and it bothered me that I didn’t hear about this man until a few years ago. How his life story relates to me personally – it doesn’t. It’s that we often talk about leaving the world a better place and I am not certain how many people actually do that. I hope to leave the world better than I entered it, but don’t know if I will accomplish that goal.

At least I can say I am two degrees away from someone who did.


What is your definition of  “changing the world?”  Have you come across anyone who has changed the world? Is it an achievable goal ? Why or why not?

Image: Filomena Scalise /