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Richard Leakey

Paleoanthropologist and Conservationist

I knew the fossils. I knew the background. I had a lot of energy, and I was fairly cheap, and so I would be sent off with a vehicle and a couple of men to explore the possibility of A or the possibility of B, and so I got into field work and prehistory that way. Fortunately, my first real venture into looking for fossils in a small group resulted in a very important discovery. That was in late '63 or early '64, where we discovered a lower jaw of an Australopithecus that had not been found before. It was in perfect condition. We found it on the first attempt, and so that got me very excited, and I began to realize that there were probably a lot more of these things, and that if you find these things, you get a position in the ladder which you can't get to unless you have either got an education or something else. So by finding important things, you immediately get into the game, which you'd been excluded from otherwise.
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Richard Leakey

Paleoanthropologist and Conservationist

Richard Leakey: Finding fossils, you've got to be looking in the right place, so an understanding of geology is very important. You've got to be able to locate areas where there might be fossils, because of the geological evidence or conditions under which fossils are formed, and conditions under which fossils might now be re-exposed through erosion. Then you've got to ascertain that there are fossils where you are looking, and then you have got to look mighty hard, and you can look and look and look and not find anything, go back exactly to the same place a year later, and there was something there all the time. It really is a question of persistence and doggedness, but you could look as doggedly as you like in the wrong place and never find it. So there is an element of subliminal knowledge that plays a major part that a lot of people obviously don't have. I had it because I was raised in it. It was second nature to me.
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Leon Lederman

Nobel Prize in Physics

Leon Lederman: We formed a team. We formed a not-for-profit academy called The Teachers Academy in Chicago, and we were trying to set up a model for changing all the cities in the United States. I mean, my own research is in particle physics, which involves huge accelerators, and we learned from that, that you might as well do it right by doing the whole system. So here we are in the third largest school system in the nation, Chicago, trying to re-train all the teachers. Not a teacher in one school here, or two schools, or ten schools, or fifty schools, but 600 schools, all the teachers in Chicago. Re-train them in ways of teaching math and science that are delightful because it's a wonderful way to start a kid in being interested in learning.
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Leon Lederman

Nobel Prize in Physics

Leon Lederman: I love science, and I think the hardest thing for young people is to know what they want. It takes effort to really know what you want. You want an extra income? If you're really interested in becoming wealthy, then you don't want to go into science. It's not impossible, but unlikely that that's a road to wealth. You really have to know what makes you happy and that takes a little effort. What makes you pleasurable? What makes you say, "Thank God it's Monday," instead of "Thank God it's Friday." That's a lot. You're going to spend some vast fraction of your life in your business, whatever it is, whether it's running a lathe, running a corporation, or running an experiment. Therefore, you want to really enjoy that, otherwise it's a dumb thing you're going to do. If you hate to go to work, even though you're making three times as much as a scientist, probably you're life will not be that satisfying. The biggest effort is, know thyself. That's Shakespeare, right? "To thine own self be true." It's not easy, so you've got to have some experiences. I generally advise kids to, you know, take the hardest courses, because that's useful. Aim high, because you can always fall back, but if you aim low, there's nothing to fall back to. You know? Try hard things, and there's always fall-back. You can always do less and still have fun at it. Especially in college: smorgasbord! Try everything. Listen to the best professor, whether it's a Latin professor, or an economics professor.
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John Lewis

Champion of Civil Rights

John Lewis: In addition to Martin Luther King, Jr., there was a young Methodist student at seminary. A young man by the name of Jim Lawson, James Lawson. He was part of something called the Methodist Student Movement. He was also active in an organization called A Fellowship for Reconciliation. He started conducting these nonviolence workshops, and I started attending these workshops. I was one of the first students to attend, and he started talking about the great religions of the world, certain elements that ran through all of the great religions of the world. And he started talking about nonviolence and passive resistance, Thoreau and civil disobedience, what Ghandi attempted to do in India, what they attempted to do in South Africa, what they accomplished in India. And he talked about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the nonviolent effort in Montgomery. And for an entire school year every Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. a group of us -- students -- would go and study with this young guy studying the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence. We had what we called "role playing," "social drama." Black and white college students, and some high school students. And I became imbued with this idea of what we called the "Beloved Community," a community at peace with itself -- that if you want to create the Beloved Community, a good society or a truly interracial democracy, if that is the goal, if that is the end, then the way, the means, must be one of peace and one of love, one of nonviolence. He taught us that means and end are inseparable.
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John Lewis

Champion of Civil Rights

I'll tell you, I grew up overnight. By the fall of 1959 we had what we called "test sit-ins" in Nashville. We went through a period of role playing and social drama, and then it came time for a group of black and white college students to go to downtown Nashville and just sit at a lunch counter, to establish the fact that people were denied service. It was in November and December of 1959. And then from a sit-in started in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February the 1st, 1960, we started sitting in on a regular basis. And it was there that, by sitting down, I think we were really standing up. I saw many of us, and I know in my own case I grew up while I was sitting on a lunch counter stool. I became a different person. I became a different human being.
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