A few numbers for you this morning:
In 1970, Neil Borlaug received a Nobel Peace Prize for helping to increase the world’s food supply and help to alleviate world hunger on a global scale. He and his team set out to hybridize crops like wheat and corn so that they could grow in arid climates. These crops were hearty enough to withstand the harsh elements and food production was able to overcome these climates. As a result, 2 billion people were saved from famine and starvation.
In 1941, Henry Wallace became the 33rd Vice President of the United States and served under FDR until 1945. Before becoming Vice President, Wallace had served as the Secretary of Agriculture. His father, a farmer and college professor at Iowa State, had held the Secretary post a little over a decade before him. Shortly after becoming Vice President, Wallace created a program called the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program which set out to focus on soil development and corn/wheat production so that these crops could be grown in dry, arid climates. Wallace established the program and Neil Borlaug spent 16 years in it developing and breeding wheat and corn for 2 billion hungry people all over the world.
In 1894, George Washington Carver was a student studying botany at Iowa State – the first black student at Iowa State. He was not allowed to stay in the student dormitories because of his race so one of the professors took him in and allowed Carver to stay at their home. This professor had a 6 year old son and would allow Carver to take the young boy out into the fields on nature walks and botany expeditions. After Carver left for Tuskegee, the boy he mentored, Henry Wallace, continued working with agriculture and plants. This boy’s fascination with plant breeding and the potential of agriculture to impact the lives of many only grew over time. Years later, George Washington Carver would rise to prominence as a great scientist and his work with plants, especially the peanut, changed the world as we know it. However, one of Carver’s greatest accomplishments might have been the time that he spent with that 6 year old boy teaching him about plants and nature and life.
These stories represent a great truth that I was reminded of last week. The greatest thing you may do as a leader might not be what you accomplish but the impact you make on someone who watches you. The greatest thing you do in this life may not be something you achieve but someone you serve.
George Washington Carver mentored a 6 year old Henry Wallace who grew up to become Vice President and start a program where Neil Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for developing crops which helped save 2 billion people from starvation.
What you do today in the lives of those around you- your co-workers, your children, your students, your spouse- is laying a foundation for a future harvest.
Go out today and serve those around you. 2 billion people’s lives may hang in the balance.