Christian Long

William Kamkwamba: How I Harnessed the Wind

In TED Talks on April 12, 2010 at 11:15 am

Reflection by SYLVIA A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

William Kamkwamba:  How I Harnessed the Wind

As I follow William on his journey through Ted, I first ask myself:

“Hmmm… is this the same guy or is there another William Kamkwamba out there?”

Obviously it is the same boy, or should I saw man?

Everything about him has changed. Not only his whole demeanor changed but he has gained that certain quality. Kids now days might call it swagger, but for my task at hand I’ll call it confidence. Even with his new confidence he hasn’t lost that honest charm as you can see, when he admitted wanting to vomit during his first session with Ted (which I also blogged about).

This changes this conversation totally.

He is able to connect with his audience on a deeper level now that he is talking to them, as opposed to the audience being present during a one on one conversation between William and the founder of Ted. Kamkwamba’s story telling enables us to really gain an understanding of his windmill and how it changed his life.

We learn that he was one of seven children in his family. The famine of 2001 in Malawi brought starvation directly to his large family and deferred his schooling. In that time of serious strain and stress Kamkwamba didn’t crumble. He didn’t stand idle by and let someone else find a solution. His motivation to learn and to live compelled Kamkwamba to teach himself even when his opportunity to learn was gone. It was fight or flight and he chose to fight, for his future. While his physical health is deteriorating, his mental health is growing stronger with each trip to the library and in doing so develops an impenetrable will power.

I almost want to call him Iron Will, because the more that I think about it, the more I realize that William overcame every single obstacle that stood in his way.

Just the pure logistics of finding materials that would meet his needs didn’t stop him. With parts he found in a scrap yard, William began constructing his simple machine. Once it was built, this basic windmill of scrap parts became the most important thing in William’s village. I feel like it symbolizes what a small impoverished village like William’s can still produce with nothing but pure human motivation.

An interesting fact also comes to mind while thinking about this situation. The famine of 2001, probably the lowest point of William’s life, made it possible for the windmill, the single most important thing to ever happen to William, to occur! Oh the irony. In times of emergency or danger great ideas are born. When he has no other choice but to succeed, William rises to the occasion.

And now 8 years later at Ted he is still talking about the day he created his windmill.

What has happened in 8 years that has has changed him so much? Numerous interviews and talks of course but he is still pursuing the field of energy and is still devoted to that innocent idea he had so long ago.He fully grasps the impact he has had on people and sees the potential in his own people. The special addition to the end of his speech where he tries to reach out to people like him really allows his emotions shine through and give hope to anyone who is striving for a goal, no matter the impossibility of it, just like he did.

  1. […] Growing up in poverty was a constant struggle, along with the crushing blow of the famine that hit his hometown of Malawi. William’s inspiring back story and incredible transformation as a speaker can be looked at in his second Ted talk 2 years later (which I also blogged about). […]

  2. Iron Will–perfect!
    So, after watching both his talks, what do you think is the source of his motivation? Why did he rise to the challenge when others were overwhelmed by the same circumstances? I’m in the middle of reading his book (The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind), and hope to find more answers there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: