There is nothing nicer than to be inspired by someone else. Someone who stands for values you subscribe to yourself, and who expresses them in a way you admire. Are we still open to letting others inspire us in today’s individualistic world? We certainly are. Meet four Wageningers and their shining examples.
Gilbert Atuga, Biotechnology student from Kenya Inspired by: Martin Luther King, American pastor and civil rights leader in the nineteen fifties and sixties. Received the Nobel prize after his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech.
‘Martin Luther King lived a simple life. He had no power and turned down the money from his Nobel prize, giving it to civil rights organizations instead. When I was at primary school I started to collect newspaper cuttings about him. I stuck them into a book and used quotes from him in my own essays. What appealed to me was that he never asked for the impossible. It doesn’t cost anything to look out for your fellow human beings, and everyone can do it. When I went to Kenyatta University in Nairobi I was incredibly shy and I concentrated mainly on my studies. At some point the student council was abolished. At first I quietly accepted that, just like everybody else. But slowly I began to get the feeling that I should protest against it, inspired by the lessons of King. We formed a group that campaigned for a new student council, using only arguments and no violence. In the end I decided to stand as a candidate for the new council myself, although I was actually quite nervous about it. MLK says the greatest tragedy during social transitions is ‘not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.’ When I was elected I cast aside my shyness and got into the political process.’
Martin Scholten, director of the Animal Sciences Group and IMARES Inspired by: Johan Cruyff , former footballer and coach, and Mick Jagger, lead singer in the Rolling Stones.
‘As a leader I haven’t read any management books, and I have never been on a management course – I am dyslectic. But when I ask myself who my role models are, the answer is: Johan Cruyff and Mick Jagger. Both of them have a massive capacity to making things happen together with the people around them. I have known of them both since my youth. The amazing thing about Cruyff is that he totally trusts his intuition and on that basis he establishes a vision of the future. I see myself in that. Cruyff looks around him too, to see which people could help him achieve that goal. He is a creative thinker, he comes up with surprising solutions, and that makes him a hard act to follow for most people. But he knows his job. Cruyff is my shining example of human resource management: how to get results out of people. Mick Jagger is a very strong organizer. He makes sure that a group of individualists put together a perfect performance, with every detail just right. He is the choreographer, not just the singer. He creates the show. I can watch a documentary about Jagger 20 times, no problem. He is my source of inspiration for business management: every detail must be right, without getting rigid about it.’
Kevin Tromp, student of Animal Sciences Inspired by: Randy Pausch, professor of Information Technology at the University of Pittsburgh. His ‘last lecture’ was a hit on the internet.
‘Five years ago I heard the ‘last lecture’ on the internet. The professor giving the lecture was ill and only had a few months to live. He said he had made a list as a child of things he wanted to do. And he had achieved all those things. He became a professor and an American football player, he had written for an encyclopaedia, and he had become a father. I found that incredibly inspiring. Lots of people want to do all sorts of things but end up only doing one thing. I do lots of different things myself. I play basketball, I coach, and I study. I gave my first performance as a stand-up comedian recently in Wageningen. I have a blog about basketball and I am working on my first book. I have a list hanging on my door. Things get added to it but nothing gets taken off. I would also really like to start a business, but I have no idea what kind. It gives a sense of satisfaction to make things yourself. My favourite quotation, and I don’t know who said it, is: How many hours a day do you create something yourself? And how much time do you spend on things other people created, like TV programmes?’
Chris Verweij, Student of Molecular Life Sciences Example: Bishop Dom Hélder Câmara, the red bishop. Câmara was a Brazilian bishop who stood up for the poor and oppressed of South America in the nineteen sixties.
‘Câmara is an example because he was the first to read the Bible as a socio-economic textbook. He was not afraid to mix politics with the Bible. When it came to helping the poor he looked at the cause of the poverty, which was the system. A famous saying if his was: ‘If I give bread to the poor they call me a saint. If I ask why the poor have no bread they call me a communist.’ I myself am a left-wing Christian. Apparently that is a strange combination, because I get funny looks in both camps. Câmara’s ideology enables me to connect my religion with my political convictions. I am a member of the SP (socialist party) and I am actively involved in the youth association Red. I also work as a church volunteer in Pieter Pauw nursing home. In 2011 I joined a humanitarian fleet to Gaza. At that time I took a position in the conflict. But what it was really all about for me was that people are being sort of held to ransom en masse because world powers are squabbling about land. But it is the people that matter most really.’