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Public Statements

Tribute To Dr. Norman Borlaug

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to pay tribute to a fellow Iowan, Dr. Norman Borlaug, a 1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. That honor--Dr. Borlaug's winning the Nobel Peace Prize--was because he was the father of the Green Revolution.

Dr. Borlaug passed away over the weekend at the age of 95. I am honored to have known Dr. Borlaug. He was a remarkable man, a true son of the Iowa soil. A tenacity found through wrestling, a love of the soil, and a twist of fate helped Dr. Borlaug develop the scientific breakthroughs to ease malnutrition and famine around the globe. His effort to spare people from the sharp hunger pains that strike an empty stomach is an example for generations to come that one person can, in fact, make a difference--and, in his case, a big difference.

Dr. Borlaug's notoriety most often comes, as I have just said, as the father of what is called the Green Revolution, a time when drastically increased crop yields over a short period of years helped alleviate world hunger. It is from this work that he is credited with saving more lives than any other person in history.

It is said that Dr. Borlaug's desire for a sufficient food supply came from his childhood. He grew up in a small town on a family farm in northeast Iowa. His education came in a one-room schoolhouse full of immigrant children. It was there where he and his schoolmates learned the common threads between them, similar to what their own parents learned, that working together to provide food for their families was more important than any ethnic differences that might divide them.

In true Iowa tradition, as a young man Dr. Borlaug was an outstanding wrestler. His wrestling skills took him to the University of Minnesota, where he, besides wrestling, earned a bachelor's and master's degree in forestry and, by a twist of fate, a doctorate in plant pathology.

It was after his graduation and World War II service that Dr. Borlaug first saw the plight of poverty-stricken wheat farmers in rural Mexico. In the early going, his work in Mexico was discouraging, but Dr. Borlaug showed his tenacity and willingness to get dirt under his fingernails and, in fact, over a period of time ingratiated himself to the local farmers. With the help of Mexican farmers, Dr. Borlaug and his scientific team eventually developed a disease-resistant wheat--a breakthrough in the fight against hunger.

His success in Mexico gave Dr. Borlaug the opportunity to help developing countries all around the world. His innovative work brought an agricultural revolution to poor and hungry countries. I don't think it is a stretch to say that Norman Borlaug transformed these countries. His work helped these countries avoid starvation and famine, but he also helped to lift the social conditions and create more peaceful societies.

His commitment to this important cause has been recognized worldwide. I already alluded to the fact that he was a 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner. He is one of only five people to be awarded three different medals of honor: the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and this Congress awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal. That may not sound like much, but let's just put that into context. The other four recipients of all three of those awards--again, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal--include Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel, Mother Teresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mr. President, Dr. Borlaug may not be a name known at every kitchen
table, but this man is one of the greatest humanitarians who have ever lived. He dedicated his life to the development of scientific breakthroughs in order to ease malnutrition and famine all over the world.

One of Dr. Borlaug's latest efforts began in the early 1980s. There wasn't anything in the Nobel armada of prizes that represented agriculture, which is why he received the Peace Prize for recognition of his research in agriculture, and so Dr. Borlaug thought there ought to be an annual award for research in agriculture and helping with the problems of food production. Through his initiative, the World Food Prize was initiated. It recognizes the achievement of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, and availability of food in the world. Just as Dr. Borlaug dreamed, the World Food Prize is helping to continue to inspire future generations of scientists and farmers to innovate and lift those mired in poverty and preserving Dr. Borlaug's legacy over the years. The World Food Prize is the idea of Dr. Borlaug, and so his scientific work will live on.

The World Food Prize exists today because of the John Ruan family endowing it. They are an outstanding Des Moines business family, and they have endowed this. President of the World Food Prize is the former Ambassador to Cambodia, Dr. Ken Quinn. The World Food Prize has been headquartered in Des Moines since 1992, about 4 or 5 years after its founding.

An extraordinary man, with a brilliant vision and Iowa common sense who turned his dreams into reality--that was Dr. Norman Borlaug.

I yield the floor.


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