Common Text Keynote Discussion by Mr. Tracy Kidder
Being that I am not a first year student and did not read the common text, I went into this lecture with no expectations. Mr. Kidder was a very poised speaker with a lot of important points to discuss about his novel, which I learned was written about a real life character, Paul Farmer. The man who introduced Kidder explained that his book began with inspiration from a difficult Harvard professor; this immediately reminded me of “Fork,” the poem we read about finding inspiration from those who may not motivate you in a positive manner.
Mr. Tracy Kidder went on to explain a brief synopsis of his novel, helping those such as myself who had not read it. He then explained the character of Paul and how he may not have had the best upbringing as a child. Kidder added that the way you were brought up cannot help but to shape you, however, you do not have to let it make you who you are. This was just what Paul did in his great life achievements. I found this comment particularly striking in that many people who may act out in their lives or not lead a very moral life tend to blame it on their unfortunate upbringings.
As Kidder continued to explain Paul’s story, he included how Paul took full advantage of his four years in college by being very active and indulging in various types of classes. Kidder then joked that he may have wasted his college years on partying and being lazy, and how looking back he wished he’d spent it the way Paul did. Kidder explained that it was Paul’s curiosity that lead him to learn new things in college, and that curiosity is a great thing, where all adventures begin. It was then this same curiosity that lead Paul to learn of Haiti, where his story flourishes.
After his college graduation, Paul went to Haiti for a year to volunteer at a hospital. It was in this first trip that Paul witnessed horrifying poverty and a pregnant woman in need of a blood transfusion that was denied because she did not have the funds. This realization that poor people, in a sense, do not have as much of a right to live as rich people, is what snowballed Paul’s program to what it is today. Paul then raised funding back in the states to but that hospital equipment for blood transfusions. From this first donation to now, years later, Paul has helped countless people in numerous poverty-stricken countries across the globe.
As impressed as I was with all of Paul’s accomplishments, one factor stuck out to me particularly. Whenever I hear of people with great life achievements I always think I’m too young to contribute like these people do. This is definitely not the case, Paul was only twenty-two years old when he started all of this, and I am just three years younger than that. This made me realize that it is never too early to start making a difference, and if we all of this mindset, our generation will never make the improvements for our world that we need to.
Mr. Kidder also proved a good point in the latter half of his discussion. He explained that the monumentally good works done by Paul and his people in Haiti prove that no problem is too big or too expensive. This is a common misconception that so many of us have about worldly problems, specifically that of AIDS.
This lecture reminded me a lot of our class discussion about service and experience. I think that Paul’s experience in Haiti is what caused him to do all the great things he did and to help all the people he has, and continues to help. This brought me back to the idea that simply hearing someone say there is severe poverty in the world, or reading about it in books, it will never become real until you see it and experience it for yourself.