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Richard Leakey

Paleoanthropologist and Conservationist

Richard Leakey: I think one of the things I've always enjoyed doing was doing things that people largely said couldn't be done. Turning the Kenya Museum into a first-rate world center for the study of human origins, as opposed to a venue where some interesting stuff periodically happened, was a great challenge. Turning it into a big, well-financed scientific institution in a period of 15 years gave me a lot of satisfaction. Going into conservation, took over an extremely corrupt government department, the most corrupt in Kenya. Wildlife in Kenya was total disaster, poaching of elephants rampant, wildlife people being killed. Turning that around into an absolutely clean, fast-moving, well-funded, high-morale wildlife authority in a couple of years was very exciting. It was something nobody thought could be done. I didn't know it could be done, but tried it, and it worked.
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Richard Leakey

Paleoanthropologist and Conservationist

There is far better democracy today in Kenya than there ever was. And then to move out of being anti the President and getting involved with the President again, having been accused by him of treason and sedition, and a year or two later being invited by him to head the government under him as head of the public service in charge of military, the police, the entire structure -- who in their right mind would think you could do that and do it well? So that was great fun, very challenging and hugely exciting. I thoroughly enjoyed that.
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Richard Leakey

Paleoanthropologist and Conservationist

You do so knowing full well that you can be successful by failing thoroughly. At least you can prove that something wasn't possible. It doesn't always have to end well, provided what you did was done with sincerity and thorough effort. I guess that is in part the essence of science. You have an idea, you set it up, you set out to prove it, and if you work hard enough at it, you either do prove it, or you prove it utterly is wrong. That's not quite as satisfying, but it's also satisfying to get to the truth, and the truth doesn't always have to fit with what your preconceived concept was, and I think that's important.
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Richard Leakey

Paleoanthropologist and Conservationist

I'd rather not have lost my legs, but it doesn't stop you functioning. You can still do things. You can still have fun. You have a lot of fun without legs. It depends on how you spin it, but I think you ought to have the courage of your own convictions. There are a lot of people who want to be popular. I have no interest in being popular. I have an interest in pursuing my own goals, hopefully not selfishly, but if necessary, selfishly, and take the knocks. People say, "But you know, you've got a lot of enemies," and I say, "Well, probably I do. Probably I have a few friends, but my purpose when I left my mother's womb wasn't to have a lot of friends. It was to make a dent on this world."
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Richard Leakey

Paleoanthropologist and Conservationist

My ability to speak on corruption is because, first of all, I'm not corrupt and never have been, but more importantly, I'm perceived to have never been corrupt. There is a distinction, but in this case, they are the same. I'm expected to be brave enough to speak the truth, and I am known not to be willing to be persuaded not to say something if it needs saying. So much so that I am no longer allowed to really exercise any discretion, because the public will expect me to put my neck on the block, irrespective of any personal considerations. I am now perceived to be fearless of retribution, and that I will speak for the people on issues of this kind, and it's an interesting role. It is not one that I particularly sought, but I guess it's very flattering and going back to the Victorian ethos of Britain, which I guess I have some links to. Is there a better cause to die for than one's country?
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Leon Lederman

Nobel Prize in Physics

Leon Lederman: I grew up at, as I mentioned at Columbia University, which happened to be a university -- and especially a physics department -- dedicated to doing a good job in teaching. And so we had that tradition. We were teachers, we taught. Sometimes, if you were very busy in a laboratory, you could get off a semester, but then you'd have to teach twice as much the next semester. And we didn't object to that. We liked that idea, and I was trained with that. And you're always teaching. You're teaching graduate students in combat, and you're learning from them. Teaching is always a teaching/learning process. If you don't learn when you're teaching, then you're not doing it right.
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Leon Lederman

Nobel Prize in Physics

Leon Lederman: When I left Columbia to become an administrator of a large laboratory, I started suffering withdrawal symptoms. You know, twitching, and saying, "Gee, I got to teach something." And so I started bringing in high school kids to teach them things. And then I learned that they were themselves, very frustrated because high school teachers often couldn't handle bright kids. Little by little, one thing led to another, and I got into looking at the whole educational structure. And so I did a lot of work with gifted kids, on the one hand, out in the boonies of the state of Illinois, and then I moved to Chicago about four years ago, and began to be interested in what we could do about a public school system in a large city.
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John Lewis

Champion of Civil Rights

John Lewis: My mother, my dear mother, she was so worried. She was so troubled. She didn't know that I was even involved, because I hadn't had any discussion until she heard that I was in jail, when the school official called and informed her that I was in jail with several other students. The next day or so I got a letter saying, "Get out of the movement. Get out of that mess. You went to school to get an education. You're going to get yourself hurt. You're going to get yourself killed." And I wrote her back and said, "I think I did the right thing. It was the right thing to do." Years later she became very, very supportive, especially after the Voting Rights Act was passed and she was allowed to become a registered voter.
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John Lewis

Champion of Civil Rights

John Lewis: As a participant, and even today, I have never ever questioned the method, never questioned this idea, this concept of passive resistance. I believe in nonviolence as a way of life, as a way of living. I believe that this idea is one of those immutable principles that is nonnegotiable if you're going to create a world community at peace with itself. You have to accept nonviolence as a way of life, as a way of living. I thought I was going to die a few times. On the Freedom Rides in the year 1961, when I was beaten at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery, I thought I was going to die. On March 7th, 1965, when I was hit in the head with a night stick by a State Trooper at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I thought I was going to die. I thought I saw death, but nothing can make me question the philosophy of nonviolence.
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