WASHINGTON — An Iowa farm boy credited with feeding a hungry world was honored Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol on the 100th anniversary of his birth.
More than 400 people broke into song after dignitaries unveiled a 17-foot tall bronze likeness of Norman E. Borlaug that will be displayed in Statuary Hall. Opera singer Simon Estes led them in singing the “Iowa Corn Song.”
Borlaug, born to Norwegian immigrants on a farm in Cresco, was responsible for scientific breakthroughs that increased yields of corn, wheat and other grains across the globe — avoiding what many predicted in the 1960s was an inevitable global famine. His work earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He has also been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“This man was one of the greatest humanitarians who ever lived. He dedicated his life to the development of scientific breakthroughs and his successes eased malnutrition and famine around the world,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Similar accolades were showered upon Borlaug, who died in 2009, by dignitaries who spoke during the hour-long ceremony and noted his humble beginnings and his vision for a world where hunger no longer threatened people in any corner of the globe.
“It’s awfully nice to have a miracle worker around here,” quipped House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said that Borlaug was the father of the “Green Revolution” that saved upwards of one billion people from starvation.
“His work was at the forefront of a 50-year period that has been described as the single greatest period of food production and hunger reduction in all of human history. Not bad for a farm boy from Cresco, Iowa. Not bad for a kid who began his education in a one-room rural schoolhouse,” Harkin said.
Among those in the crowd was his son, Bill Borlaug, and 22 other descendants including five great-grandchildren.
“It’s pretty humbling,” Bill Borlaug said after the ceremony.
The bronze statue, created by sculptor Benjamin Victor, depicts Borlaug dressed casually with his sleeves rolled up as if to get to work. The image is spot on — capturing both his likeness and personality, according to his son.
“I think it is a tremendous statue,” said Bill Borlaug, who lives in Dallas. “He was a real humble person and he preferred his comfortable attire - khakis and his boots — and was not real fond of dressing up in a suit.”