Small changes can be globally transformative, Kristof says

 Kristof took time after the lecture to meet with students and answer questions.

Kristof took time after the lecture to meet with students and answer questions.

It’s easy to see what’s happening around the world and be depressed by the violence, injustice and evil.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof urged a stand-room-only crowd at Evans Hall in February to look at things differently.

“Be inspired by the human capacity for resilience, altruism and courage,” he said.

Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for writings that often focus on international human rights abuses, commended Connecticut College students for seeking an international focus within their studies.

“One of the things I admire is how many of you study abroad,” he said. “There are plenty of opportunities to encounter a different world out there, and it’s an education you can only get outside of the classroom.”

View photos from Kristof’s talk.

Kristof was on campus as the keynoter for “Striving for Global Justice,” a lecture series hosted by the College’s five interdisciplinary centers. Much of his talk centered on his new book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” which he authored with his wife Sheryl WuDunn.

Kristof discussed the maltreatment, marginalization and brutality that women and girls face in many developing nations. But he also emphasized stories of women who overcame difficult obstacles – women like Beatrice Biira ’08, whose education was funded by a donation to her family in Uganda through Heifer International.

Kristof surprised the audience when he pulled out his cell phone mid-talk to call Biira and ask about the impact that education had on her life.

“Coming from Uganda, and coming to Connecticut College, I feel so empowered,” Biira said through speakerphone. “I have the chance to make very meaningful, thought-out choices for how I live my life and how I impact the lives of others.”

Kristof told the audience that he felt organizations and activists had come a long way in bringing about change and defining success.

“I think that solving the problem is a wrong index of whether you’re making a difference,” he said. “What I admire about your generation is the focus on niche interventions – like sponsoring a 3rd grade class in a refugee camp.” In the long run, he said, those changes are transformative.

View a detailed schedule for the series.