Living Lavishly in Poverty – Wangari Maathai

The life lesson: you can live lavishly no matter how little money you earn or how tired, ill, or just plain crazy you feel. The woman who wasn’t well-behaved: Wangari Maathai. 

How do we know Maathai wasn’t well-behaved? Listen to how her ex-husband describes her:

“…too educated, too strong, too successful, too stubborn, and too hard to control,” he said.

You gotta admire his honesty! Mr Wangari wanted a woman he could control – but you can’t control women who aren’t well-behaved. For Wangari Maathai’s biography, read Unbowed: A Memoir. And, here are her recent comments about Barack Obama and Kenya, two life lessons, and a dash from her past…

Living Lavishly in Poverty – Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai was the first woman in Africa to earn a PhD. She taught veterinary anatomy at the University of Nairobi, where she earned her doctorate. She also studied in Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Germany.

Maathai has won at least 20 international awards, prizes, and medals – from the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 to the Woman of the Year Award in 1983. She’s received four honorary degrees and is featured on the United Nation’s Global Hall of Fame. Maathai has been named one of the 100 heroines of the world – she’s currently into environmental and sustainability issues in Africa.

Life lesson: it’s okay to be the way you are. “African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence,” says Maathai.

That life lesson from this woman who wasn’t well-behaved woman isn’t just for African women…it’s for women all ’round the world. It’s okay to be the way you are.

Living lavishly in poverty. “Power in Africa is not about serving or working for the people,” said Maathai in a recent speech to Japan’s Prime Minister at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama. “It’s about acquiring wealth and living lavishly, even when surrounded by poverty.”

How do you live lavishly in poverty – whether you’re living in the slums of Nairobi or the spiritual wasteland of Vegas? You focus on the good you have, whether it’s a soul sister or a car that gets you from Point A to Point B. You stay connected to your spirit, dreams, and faith.

You chase your dreams with dogged determination, and realize that setbacks, obstacles, and delays are part of the journey.

Maathai’s comments about Barack Obama and Kenya. In a recent interview with The Daily Nation (April 12, 2009), Maathai said Obama can’t help Kenyans if they don’t help themselves.

This is another life lesson from this successful woman: nobody can help you if you don’t help yourself. Some Kenyans see Obama as “Father Christmas” – and Maathai says that’s a mistake.

Can you live lavishly in poverty? It’s definitely a matter of attitude, not circumstance! And by the way – money can weigh you down (though I’ve never felt the weight of too much money!).

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