August 23, 2007

Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai offers
lessons in courage to Sacramento State students

Dr. Wangari Maathai Dr. Wangari Maathai

Nobel laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai will share her insights with Sacramento State students and answer questions during a special appearance in the University Union Redwood Room at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 21.

Winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, a network of rural African women which has planted 40 million trees in Kenya since 1977. The project benefits the environment and the status of women in a country that is still very patriarchal, says Sheree Meyer, chair of Sacramento State’s English Department.

Maathai was also elected to Kenya’s Parliament despite run-ins with that government and other personal setbacks that included threats and jail time.

Her autobiography, Unbowed, will be part of the curriculum in the University Honors Program, freshman seminars and composition courses, and may be included in other courses across the curriculum, Meyer says.

Sacramento is just one of a few stops Maathai will make before attending the Clinton Global Initiative Conference Sept. 26-28 in New York City. One reason she agreed to speak at Sacramento State is her continuing role as an educator. “She loves to teach,” Meyer says. “Her real interest is dealing with students.”
Maathai’s appearance coincides with the 40th anniversary of a campus visit by another Nobel laureate, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who won the Peace Prize in 1964. “That conjunction is a wonderful way of showing that Sacramento State is part of a global community,” Meyer says.

Maathai is in town as part of the California Lectures series. Sacramento State professors have conducted previews for the CALectures series for the last few years, Meyer says.

The campus event is limited to students, faculty and staff, plus invited high school students, but Maathai is participating in other events on Sept. 21 that are open to the general public:

Tree planting—Maathai will take part in a tree planting at the capitol at 12:30 p.m. along with state and local officials.

Lecture—The CALectures talk will take place at the Westminster Presbyterian Church at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and available at 1-800-225-2277 or For more information call (916) 737-1300.

For more information on Maathai’s campus appearance, call the English Department at (916) 278-2875. For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.