Update: Instapundit links to another editorial on Borlaug by Pejman Yousefzadeh.
Regarding narratives: Yes, it is our human nature to seek a satisfaction that is not always true.
Nonetheless, here is a simple narrative of challenges overcome – from the one-room schoolhouse to the Congressional Gold Medal, from a world prophesying famine throughout Asia to a world of a booming India: Norman Borlaug’s life has been long and useful. This story from a student newspaper may lead us to hope that a model such as this can be internalized by those who read it. This is a heroism of unbelievable productivity, of humility, of a passion for others. That mildness may well have saved billions of lives; few in man’s long history can claim (not that he does, of course) such an effect. Mostly we think in terms of death, so many died because of Stalin or Hitler we say. To think of lives is harder to wrap our minds around – we compare an absence, a nil, with a presence. But how wonderful each presence is. People like Borlaug are the quiet heroes that we can hope win hearts and minds.
Greg Easterbrook was in the room; here’s the conclusion of his report:
Borlaug’s story is ignored because his is a story of righteousness — shunning wealth and comfort, this magnificent man lived nearly all his life in impoverished nations. If he’d blown something up, lied under oath or been caught offering money for fun, ABC, CBS and NBC would have crowded the Capitol Rotunda today with cameras, hoping to record an embarrassing gaffe. Because instead Borlaug devoted his life to serving the poor, he is considered Not News. All I can say after watching him today is that I hope Borlaug isn’t serious about retiring, as there is much work to be done — and I hope when I’m 93 years old I can speak without notes, as he did.