By Ananya Cleetus, Upper Saint Clair High School, sophomore
As Bill Clinton walked off the stage, there was a huge sigh in the crowd. Everyone had been on the edge of their seat, still in awe of having been that close to a former US President. I, myself, have always considered President Clinton to be one of the most inspirational public figures. I looked down at my schedule, anxious to find out who the next speaker would be. It was Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner from Bangladesh. I relaxed back in my seat, hardly expecting anyone to be able to compete with Clinton’s charisma and personality.
Don’t get me wrong. I was extremely excited to hear Mr. Yunus speak, but I was still recovering from having seen Mr. Clinton in person and hardly expected anyone to be able to top his speech. Plus, Mr. Yunus’s achievements didn’t really seem to directly affect me as much as Mr. Clinton’s had. The next man who walked on stage was hardly what I had imagined him to be. The first thing I noticed was the fact that he walked out on to the center of the stage. I had expected to stand behind the white podium like everyone else, but instead he moved out towards the front, almost as if he was talking directly to us. The next thing that caught my eye was his outfit. He was dressed in a simple Bangladeshi outfit, consisting of a long kurta-type robe and a contrasting vest on top. Frankly, it reminded me a lot of my home country, India. I had seen my father wear a similar outfit before and I immediately connected with Mr. Yunus. Bangladesh, having previously been a part of India, has culture and attire very similar to that of India. Like my parents, I was originally born in India, but I moved to the United States when I was four years old. I still continue to keep in touch with my heritage and culture, and so the outfit Mr. Yunus was wearing really gave me a homey feel.
Mr. Yunus’ speech was very thoughtful and refreshing. I admired his mindset and perspective. He almost seemed to be taking the opposite approach compared to everyone else. Like most other listeners, I sort of had this preconceived notion of what the speakers would be like. I expected them to be overwhelming, but on the contrary, Yunus came across as very approachable and didn’t seem as intimidating as I had anticipated. I think the reason his personality appealed so much to me was because he was almost rebelling against the common methods of achieving something. All the speakers I’ve ever heard have always given the same clichéd advice on success. Muhammad Yunus immediately stood out to me when he said, “Not knowing something is sometimes a blessing. You are open.” I guess I had never really considered it from that backwards angle, but he was absolutely right. Sometimes lack of knowledge can open up your mindset and boundaries because you have no notions of what is “accepted” or “normal”. We’ve all been so careful to avoid world ignorance and oblivion that we may have in fact been running our creativity into the ground.
I personally, have a lot of experience with speaking. I’m a member of my school’s Forensics team, so I’ve done a lot of speaking and debating, and from experience, I’ve always liked speeches with emotion. It adds this veracity to the words that no statistic can provide. We structure our debates with three main components: Claim, Warrant, and Impact. The claim is what you’re saying, the warrant is your evidence or information to support that, and the impact is basically the significance of what you’re saying. Muhammad Yunus, in my opinion, incorporated all three components in his speech, and used a lot of impact in particular. Rather than simply stating a bunch of facts, he tugged at our heartstrings and opened our eyes to what was going on. Another quote that stood out to me was, “Banks shouldn’t be telling people whether they are credit-worthy or not; people should be telling the banks whether they are people-worthy.” His view, although atypical, adds a human touch to the banking system and really displays his passion for fair treatment of people. He also went on later to mention how poverty wasn’t an inherent flaw of a person, but rather a fault of the system and made a rather memorable analogy with a bonsai plant. Bonsai seeds don’t grow tall when put in a flower pot because they don’t receive enough nutrients from the soil, not because the seed is faulty. One wouldn’t normally associate plants with people, but his lesson holds true. People can’t grow or thrive when society is holding them down.
Muhammad Yunus was definitely my favorite speaker of the night by far. I wasn’t initially sure if I would like his speech; I didn’t really think I would be able to relate. A Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize Winner and the inventor of Microcredit? The whole experience seemed daunting, yet I could not have been more wrong. Mr. Yunus was not only an amazing passionate speaker, but also a relatable, approachable person. I felt like he was talking to me, to us, and not to the cameras. I was instantly able to connect with him through his background and also through his oration, and he really inspired me to be more open minded. Even though we’re miles and achievements apart, we’re both very similar. We’re both bonsai people.