I will never forget how my fifteen year old self felt the day I met Stephen Lewis. Clammy hands, prepared speech, and a feeling that I had suddenly shrunk to be a foot tall in his towering presence. Stephen Lewis is unquestionably one of the most important Canadian figures as he not only recognizes, but acts upon some of the toughest international issues faced today.
Francis Bacon couldn’t have said it better when he stated that “knowledge is power.” Stephen Lewis demonstrates this concept as he fills lecture hall after lecture hall with not only information, but inspiration to do something to help.
Stephen Lewis spoke at the University of Guelph in my first year as a student here in January 2008. I vividly remember War Memorial Hall packed with both people and enthusiasm as Lewis addressed serious issues.
He spoke of situations that many educated people had never heard of before.
Womyn of the Democratic Republic of the Congo being brutally oppressed as men utilize rape as a weapon of war. A war that has surpasses the death toll and length of some of the most acknowledged and well-known wars, including World War II. But Stephen Lewis recognized this crisis and the need for intervention. In response to this talk, several members of the University of Guelph formed the Guelph chapter of Friends of the Congo.
Though the crisis in the DRC still continues, The Stephen Lewis Foundation is dedicated to making positive steps towards peace for the people of the Congo. Stephen Lewis spoke at the University of Toronto on the severity of the war in the DRC with Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder of the Panzi hospital in the DRC and Eve Ensler, creator of Vagina Monologues. He continues to reach out to people to help the womyn of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Stephen Lewis has managed to reach and motivate people around the world of all ages. In my hometown near Collingwood, Ontario a group of elderly womyn named “The Grey Grannies” have formed an activist group in response to the AIDS epidemic in Africa. More than two hundred groups of grandmothers gather in Canada in response to Lewis’s inspiration. Stephen Lewis recognizes and responds to the pattern of elderly grandmothers caring for grandchildren after the death of the children’s parents in countries of Africa that have been afflicted with the AIDS epidemic.
Such monumental causes create a ripple effect across the globe as inspiration quickly spreads from small town to large city and people everywhere finally learn about the complex and imperative issues that arise each day.
On June 7 and 8, the University of Guelph was fortunate to have Stephen Lewis as the keynote speaker for Climate Change and Implications for Plant Science Symposium. The symposium brought together researchers from across the globe to discuss imperative issues of climate change and its effects on agriculture.
If you are ever given the opportunity to hear the wise and motivational words of Stephen Lewis, do not hesitate and leave this opportunity behind. It very well might just change your mind and possibly even change your life.
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