EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
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Friday, November 08, 2013

Lester Brown was the first in his family to graduate from elementary school. In his new memoir Breaking New Ground he reveals what inspired him—and the millions of those who have read his books—to become environmentally active. The excerpt below reveals that he was driven from the very start.

Stow Creek Elementary School graduates.

“Meanwhile I was enjoying school and reading voraciously. Once class assignments were given, I would rush to finish them so I could read books in the library. This was widely recognized by my teachers come report card time. My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Tomlinson, wrote, “His reading and choice of reading material, especially historical books, is outstanding. … The thing he needs to do most is to slow up.” The sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Van Vliet, wrote, “He does his work ‘too fast.’ This leads to carelessness.” This was true, but I was willing to settle for a slightly lower grade because I was learning so much from reading.

During at least one school year, I read over 100 books. I found biographies intensely interesting, including those of our founding fathers. Others I particularly enjoyed were about Abraham Lincoln, Marie Curie, and George Washington Carver. By the time I graduated from eighth grade I had read almost every book in Stow Creek School.

Since we were rather isolated on the farm and since neither of my parents had ever read a book, our dinner table conversations were limited. Biographies opened the world to me in a way that my parents could not. Thus at an early age my sense of self was being influenced by my fascination with these political leaders and scientists. They had addressed the major issues of their time, and I wanted to do the same.”

For more on Lester’s early life check out the photo albums on our website and pick up a copy of Breaking New Ground today! Tomorrow Lester starts a West Coast Book Tour. He’ll be speaking in Vancouver, Salt Spring Island, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. For details, go to our Events page.


Posted by julianne on 11/08 at 10:23 AM


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