When 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Wangari Maathai P’94, P’96, Sc.D.’94 visited campus in April, she made a lasting impression on Hobart and William Smith students. William Smith senior Courtney Apple believed the event was a great success.
“Dr. Maathai was truly one of the most eloquent and inspirational speakers I have seen here on campus,” said Apple.
Hobart and William Smith students performed a traditional African dance to open the event.
“I was honored to have the opportunity to dance for Dr. Maathai, especially after I heard her speak,” said dancer Sherry Funke ’08. “It was a great experience that all of us felt honored to be a part of.”
Maathai began her speech by describing her significant connection with the HWS community as a parent of two HWS graduates. Calling her visit “a homecoming,” she spoke of the beauty and sense of community within the Geneva community.
“By every standard, Hobart and William Smith Colleges is the best place to be,” she said. For student, Jonathan Kemp ’09, her positive words reinforced the fact that he’s lucky to be having an HWS experience.
“Not everyone in the world has the chance to live the HWS life,” he said. Maathai hit a cord with graduating seniors, reminding them to appreciate the community they will soon be leaving, and inspired the audience with her many achievements.
“She really made me come to appreciate, more so than before, how incredibly lucky we are here on this beautiful campus,” says Apple.
“She brought to my attention that not only is her work– environmentalist work, but she’s a peace-keeper as well,” explains Apple.
“Once our environment improves, the world will have more access to resources such as water and agriculture which ultimately is what keeps us from starting wars against others.”
Maathai concluded her speech with a story about a humming bird and a forest fire, encouraging students to do what they can even in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
“She said to do anything you can. You don’t have to do anything outside your power; just do what you can,” says Kemp.