20 September 2009 - Farewell to A Giant of a Man and a Friend

The world lost a giant of a man a few days ago with the passing of 95-year-old Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution. I lost one of my all-time personal heroes...and a friend. I have often said he and I had three things in common; we are both of Norwegian ancestry, both grew up on farms without electricity and both went to one-room eight-grade country schools. Believe me, that's where the similarities came to a screeching halt; he did the hard work that changed the world and I just talked about it!

In the four decades that I knew Dr. Borlaug, we shared many conversations in a radio studio and in front of a television camera, talking about his work in the 1960's in developing varieties of wheat and rice that would grow in arid climates as well as the tropics. Because of his research work in Mexico and India, he took world grain production from 692-million tons in 1960 to 1.9-billion tons in 1992. We were feeding 2.2-billion people in 1960; we were feeding 5.6-billion people on the planet in 1990. That increase in world grain production came with only using 1% more land because of Dr. Borlaug's accomplishments.

Dr. Borlaug was a humble individual; wouldn't talk much about the honors and awards he received, but the United Nations officially credited him with saving a billion people from starvation. The title of his biography published a couple of years ago (and a must-read) says it all... ‘The Man Who Fed the World'.

Because of his work, he is one of only five people in history to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Time Magazine, in 1999, named him as one of the 100 Most Influential Minds in the 20th century. It was a mind that did not stop working; up to a few weeks before his death he was still continuing his research work at Texas A & M University.

From that beginning on an Iowa farm, Dr. Borlaug made an impact that will never die. He was honored at a White House dinner after he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. I was an invited guest at that dinner and joined in the tribute to a giant of a man whose work will live far beyond the years of his human life. Several years ago I visited the University in India where he did much of his work in the 60's and I will always remember one of his quotes at the entrance to the building "Everything else can wait, agriculture can't". Again, Dr. Norman Borlaug leaving us at age 95, never to be forgotten.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.