In my ESL class, my students needed to take out simple biographies from the library, do some research on-line, and write a one page report about someone famous that they admire. I had numerous athletes and movie stars, and too many repeats! The following year I decided to give them a list of suggestions from around the world, and I had the class sign up so I wouldn’t be reading the same people regurgitated over and over. The next time your child needs to write about a famous person, broaden their horizons. Rigoberta Menchú, from Guatemala, is a leader, an advocate for Indian rights, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. I made the following very short presentation as a mini-biography to introduce her.
Finally, here is an excerpt of an 1993 interview, before which Ms. Menchú had rung the Peace Bell in New York at the United Nations Earth Day ceremony. She was interviewed by Global Vision Director Michael O’Callaghan for the Sustainability TV series. This is an short excerpt of her poignant answers.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO HUMANKIND?
“We are living in a troubled world… It’s a time to reflect about many things, especially about humankind as a whole.. The world right now is preoccupied with business, buying and selling and making money. But solutions can be found in our community, among the indigenous peoples who are the victims of terrible repression and violations of the law in many parts of the world. You can find experience, people who have educated themselves, and a whole side of science which is not well known...
“we need education on a global scale. Humankind will not recover from its mistakes without global education. The United Nations, human rights organisations, indigenous peoples, and all the countries of the world should concentrate their efforts on education.”
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO PROTECT INDIGENOUS PEOPLES?
“It is very important to understand that we indigenous peoples don’t need “protection.” What we do need is simply to be allowed to exist, to live, to let our own culture develop, and to recover the meaning of our own history… our way of thinking, our lifestyle have empowered us to survive through many difficult times in the past...”
“To me, the most important thing is that indigenous people still possess a balance, an equilibrium with Mother Nature, a balance between human life and the earth itself…Indigenous people aren’t strange. We may be special, but we are also part of the modern world in which we all live. We are part of the diversity of cultures, the plurality of races, the mixture of societies on all the continents where we live today. Indigenous people are not some myth from the past, a myth that survives only in legends and in ruins!”
After learning about her, write to Miss Rigoberta.
Your kids can write to her via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or snail mail:
Rigoberta Menchu Tum
Premio Nobel de la Paz
Heriberto Frias 339
03020 Mexico, D.F.