“I expected the audience to laugh at my silly English, but to my surprise, all I heard was applause. Not only were people clapping, but they stood up in their seats and cheered. And when I finally returned to my chair, I noticed that several of them were even crying. After those years of trouble – the famine and constant fear for my family, dropping out of school and my father’s grief, Khamba’s death, and the teasing I received trying to develop an idea – after all that, I was finally being recognized. For the first time in my life, I felt I was surrounded by people who understood what I did. A great weight seemed to leave my chest and fall to the assembly hall floor. I could finally relax. I was now among colleagues.” (pp. 268-269)
“As I watched [‘the twirling blades’ of the windmills], they seemed to be telling me something – that I didn’t have to decide just then. I could return to Africa and go back to school, reclaim the life that had been taken from me for so long. And after that, who knows? Perhaps I would study these machines and learn how to build them, then plant my own forest of them among the green fields of Malawi. Perhaps I would teach others to build more simple windmills like the one I had at home, to provide their own light and water without having to depend on the government. Perhaps I’d do both. But whatever it was I decided to do, I would apply this lone lesson I’d learned:
If you want to make it, all you have to do is try.” (p. 281)
William Kamkwamba’s story is the story of success. It is perhaps the most inspiring story one could possibly read because he considers his achievement to be not only a personal feat but a triumph for others as well. The townspeople, after months of taunting him as a ne’er-do-well and calling him a crazy man, much to the dismay of his anxious mom, enthusiastically offer him their praise when they come to acknowledge the windmill that he built in his backyard. Despite the unceasing ridicule they made him endure, William embraces their expression of good will in a handshake of solidarity. As he explains in the Prologue to his book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, his birth as an inventor and scientist has also given birth to the immediate renewal of the society at large: “Each piece told its own tale of discovery, of being lost and found in a time of hardship and fear. Finally together now, we were all being reborn” (1-2).
The whole Hostos community will be entranced with this book. Mr. Kamkwamba’s story is a moving testament to human ingenuity in the face of the most overwhelming obstacles. His achievements take him from his small village in the country of Malawi, where he managed to bring electricity and running water to his family and neighbors, to Dartmouth College, where he has studied physics and engineering and environmental science. He is expected to receive his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth in May 2014.
For guidance in reading the book, go to “Study Guide.”
To participate in an on-line conversation forum with students, faculty and staff members, go to “Discussion Board.”
To see the schedule of activities, go to “Calendar of Events.”
If you have any questions or comments, please address them to Professor Robert F. Cohen, Director, Hostos Book-of-the-Semester Project, by phone (718-518-6592) or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).