Borlaug deserves statue

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: March 23 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:01 am in

By Dyan Smith

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On Tuesday, the State of Iowa will celebrate a milestone with the official unveiling of the Norman E. Borlaug Statue in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Appropriately, the date would have been Dr. Borlaug’s 100th birthday and is also National Agriculture Day.

With the unveiling, Iowans will experience a historic, once-in-a-lifetime event that has not occurred in more than a century. The last time a statue representing Iowa was unveiled at the U.S. Capitol was 1913 (Sen. James Harlan). A statue of former Gov. Samuel Kirkwood was unveiled in 1910.

As we — the Borlaug Statue Committee — embarked on this mission more than two years ago to raise funds and commission an artist to create the statue, we reflected on Borlaug’s legacy and the impact his work had on people around the world. As The Atlantic Monthly said in 1997, “Norman Borlaug has saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived.”

He was a humble man, born on a farm outside the small Northeast Iowa town of Cresco. He grew up during the Great Depression — when the world’s population was 1.8 billion people — and became fascinated by diseases that wiped out entire fields of crops. Highly competitive and persistent, Borlaug devoted his life to researching, innovating, teaching and crusading for progress in agriculture to feed the world.

With a guiding principal that “Food is the moral right of all who are born in to this world,” Borlaug worked in many regions around the globe to develop new, high-yielding wheat varieties.

He became known as the “Father of the Green Revolution” and is credited with saving an estimated 1 billion people around the world from hunger and starvation. He is the only American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.

Today, the global population is more than 7 billion people; nearly 1 billion go hungry each day. We face the greatest challenge of human history: How to feed an estimated 9 billion people by the year 2050. Borlaug’s inspiration is needed now more than ever as we work to inspire the next generation to focus on creating healthy food systems, and to build on his legacy of agricultural innovation to ensure enough nutritious food for all.

In this spirit, and as many leaders and others gather in Washington, D.C. this month to unveil the Borlaug Statue, we invite and encourage Iowans to join the celebration and learn more about Borlaug and how they can help continue his legacy.

Iowans can watch the Borlaug Statue dedication ceremony webcast at www.speaker.gov/live or visit the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines to see a smaller version of the statue.

In addition, Iowans can visit the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates free all day in Des Moines to see the webcast, package meals for the hungry, enjoy children’s story time, tour the building with Iowa artists, explore interactive education exhibits about Borlaug and more.

Iowans also can visit www.iowaborlaugstatue.org to learn more about the Borlaug statue project, and www.worldfoodprize.org/norm for other opportunities to celebrate his legacy.

Dyan Smith of Cedar Rapids is a Borlaug Statue Committee member. Comments: dy45orso@gmail.com

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