Kamkwamba Generates Currents of Hope

“Whatever you want to do, if you do it with all your heart, it will happen,” wrote William Kamkwamba in his award-winning book The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. As this year’s Lambert Lecture speaker, Kamkwamba spoke about the struggles he faced as a child and how he overcame them through curiosity and hope.
The 2020 Lambert Lecture took place last Tuesday in Elfers Hall. Founded in 1981 by Paul C. Lambert ’46 and his wife, the Lambert Lecture fund brings writers to the school annually for a night dedicated to appreciating literature. The lecture was created to commemorate their son, Christopher Lambert ’76, who died of cancer in 1979. Previous speakers include Don Share in 2018 and poet and translator A.E. Stallings in 2019.
Kamkwamba was born on a farm in Malawi. Growing up, he was curious and loved to learn. At the start of his eighth grade year, his family could no longer afford the monthly fee at his school, so he could no longer attend. Kamkwamba told the audience that he collected notes from friends who were able to attend classes and practiced problem sets on his own.
When he saw a windmill on the cover of the physics book Using Energy, Kamkwamba decided to build his own to provide electricity for his family. Malawian journalists reported on this unlikely feat and propelled him to international prominence.
During the lecture, Kamkwamba told the story of his life and spoke about the challenges he has had to overcome. He stressed the importance of creativity and determination in everyday life, encouraging students not to let obstacles hold them back. Carolyn Chinatti ’22 said, “The lecture showed the power of perseverance against challenges you encounter during your life.”
Kamkwamba’s book was the 2019 all-school summer read. The book was chosen by Mr. Craig Bradley, head of school, and the Summer Reading Selection Committee, which is made up of students and faculty.
They chose the book for its compelling story and message, hoping that students would take Kamkwamba’s love of learning and ability to persevere and apply them to their own lives. Charles Frankenbach, instructor in English, said, “I hope students were able to see the living, breathing embodiment of the book they read [at the lecture].”