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Scott Momaday

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Poetry, it seems to me and I'm pretty sure I'm right about this, is the crown of literature. To write a great poem is to do as much as you can do in literature. Everything has to be very precise. The poem has to be informed with motive and emotion. You're bringing everything that literature is based upon to bear, when you write a poem. I think of myself as a poet, I'd rather be a poet than a novelist, or some other sort of writer. I think I'm more recognized as a novelist, simply because I won a prize. But I write poetry consistently, though slowly. And it seems to me the thing that I want to do best. I would rather be a poet than a novelist, because I think it's on a slightly higher plane. You know, poets are the people who really are the most insightful among us. They stand in the best position to enlighten us, and encourage, and inspire us. What better thing could you be than a poet? That's how I think of it.
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Scott Momaday

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

When I published The Way to Rainy Mountain , someone who was writing a review -- or interviewing me -- said to me, "You know, you're very lucky to know who you are, with respect to your grandparents, your great-grandparents, five generations back. You know about that. I don't know that about myself, or my people." And that came as a surprise to me, because I hadn't thought about it, you know. And I had taken it for granted. But I sometimes think that the contemporary white American is more culturally deprived than the Indian, in that sense. Because very few people know about their ancestry, going back even a generation. I'm always appalled by students who -- you know, I say, "Well look, you've got an oral tradition. You've got a family oral tradition, if nothing else. Tell me about your grandparents." And sometimes they just don't know about their grandparents, and I find that very sad, and alarming, but it's true. It's true.
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Greg Mortenson

Best-Selling Author, Three Cups of Tea

I went behind the village one day. I saw 84 children sitting in the dirt. There was about five girls and 79 boys. And most of the kids were writing with sticks in the sand, and the older kids were helping the younger kids. And then I had looked around, and I didn't see a teacher there. And I thought, "This is very strange. We've got 80 kids here and no teacher." And they said, "Our teacher, Master Hussein " -- master means teacher -- " is in the next village, Munjung, because we can't afford his daily one-dollar salary." And then a young girl named Cho Cho came up to me. She was about seven or eight. She said, "Could you help us build a school here? It's very cold. Could you just please help us build a school?" I had seen a lot of poverty in my life. I grew up in Africa. And I've seen development, so those kind of experiences really shouldn't affect me to such a degree, but when I looked into her eyes, I saw such a purity and such a kind of resilient determination to ask me for help. So I made a promise. It was kind of this "eureka" moment, but I said, "I promise I'll build a school for you." And little did I know that I'd changed my life forever.
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Greg Mortenson

Best-Selling Author, Three Cups of Tea

K2 is a very beautiful mountain. In the Balti language, which is of the people there -- it's classical Tibetan -- K2 is called Chogori or Chogor, means "the big peak." It's a very symmetrical peak and granite mass -- you can put 84 Matterhorns inside of it -- but it's kind of reaching up to the heavens. Also, one of the reasons I decided to climb a mountain to honor my sister Christa is that the very same hour that my sister died, I actually was climbing in Mount Sill which is in the east Sierra Mountains in California, and I fell about 800 feet. And the exact same hour that my sister died from epilepsy, I fell about 800 feet down a mountain. And earlier in the day, I had seen a ruby-throated hummingbird up near the top of the mountain, and ruby hummingbirds don't fly at 14,000 feet. Afterwards, I kind of put it together. I think that hummingbird was my sister coming to say goodbye to me. So that's one reason I chose climbing as a way to honor her memory. But yet, I never knew that it would take me to a far greater climb and a more special way to honor her memory.
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Story Musgrave

Dean of American Astronauts

Starting as a three year-old on a dairy farm, a thousand-acre dairy farm, nature became my world. Even as a three year-old I could go out in the forest and, at seven, eight o'clock at night, dark, and I was totally at home in the fields, the woods, the rivers from the earliest age, that became my world. Lying in a damp, cool, freshly plowed field, just after a sunset and looking out into the heavens, that became my world.
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Story Musgrave

Dean of American Astronauts

Space takes almost a new language. It's a new place. We created and evolved here on earth. We're earth-based creatures, and the magic of what goes on when you take humanity out there, it's going to take a new language to do it. And poetry has some tools in it which will, as music does, directly do you. You don't have to intellectualize music. You listen to music and it works on you and you get it. So it's a direct communication. And so, I think, a way of bringing space to people, that poetry will work.
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Story Musgrave

Dean of American Astronauts

Story Musgrave: For me, life is 99 percent a spiritual quest. And it started in childhood with myself and nature, and the universe. And finding truth, finding serenity, finding myself by being immersed and embracing the whole thing that is part of us, that has created us, evolved us, that we are part of. Space flight has allowed me to extend that into unbelievable kinds of realms in which you see a third of the earth, in which you see entire continents, and you see patterns. And you come over the Near East and you see, framed in the space ship window, all of the civilizations, the old civilizations. And you see nature at work, and great, huge lines of volcanoes, from the tip of South America, all the way up through the Aleutians and Alaska.
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