By Neil Nisperos
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Joyce Banda, Malawi’s first female president describes her thoughts on leadership, simply saying “A servant leader places the needs of the public ahead of their own self interest and needs.”
Joyce Banda, Malawi’s first female president and the most powerful woman in Africa according to Forbes in 2014, spoke to a packed audience at the University of Redlands on Saturday as keynote speaker for the campus’ homecoming celebration.
The former president has been a champion for the rights of women, children, the disabled and other marginalized groups, and spoke to students, faculty and alumni about her work promoting justice, equality and the need for “servant leaders” in the world.
“A servant leader places the needs of the public ahead of their own self interest and needs,” Banda told the large audience inside Memorial Chapel at the university. “A servant leader works toward creating a fair, just, inclusive and most progressive community.”
In her speech, Banda mentioned the work of leaders that included Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Jimmy Carter.
“To me they are all in the same group of servant leadership — people who came into leadership to serve others and not to be served,” Banda said. “President Carter, he left office. People will not tell you what he achieved in office, but people will tell you what he achieved after he left office.
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For me, that is what is leadership. I watched him with amazement building a house for the poor and he is 94. … I wish we had as many leaders like that on the continent of Africa.”
After her speech, Banda said she felt deeply honored and privileged to be invited to speak at the university’s homecoming event to share her message.
“When I was asked to come to share my thoughts on redefined leadership and advancing social justice, I felt that I just couldn’t decline because I believe that the participation of women in leadership, particularly on the continent of Africa, is key to social and political empowerment of women. … So as we develop as many women as possible to take up leadership positions, especially to advance social justice, Africa will be a better place for all.”
Among those who came to listen to Banda speak was Paul-Jahi Price, 57, of Pasadena, who attended U of R from 1977 to 1981 and was captain of the football team.
“I think it’s important for students to hear this, particularly students of the University of Redlands because, as you know, sometimes our students are somewhat sheltered, and she brings out some very crucial points insofar as being a servant leader, which means you have to deny yourself,” said Price, now a sociology professor at Pasadena City College. “Our students … They have all the resources and privileges that one can imagine, but she has denied herself through the years to help folks much less fortunate than she is, and so I really admire that.”
Redlands resident Erin Mancha was also in attendance and had met Banda’s children when she did nonprofit work in Malawi and lived there from 2010 to 2012.
“I think she’s an inspiration in leadership, but definitely an inspiration to women,” Mancha said. “She’s done a lot of important work for women and children and moved social justice forward.”