Joyce Banda, the first female president of Malawi, brought her passion and motivation to the University of Redlands on Oct. 22. In the midst of homecoming festivities, the event took place at 3:30 in the afternoon. Over 800 students, parents, community members, alumni, and even previous residents of Malawi filled the Memorial Chapel. All intently waited to hear Africa’s most powerful women speak about redefining leadership. Banda entered the room with great poise and composure. As soon as she took the stage, the audience applauded to show their appreciation for having a dignified, brilliant and eminent leader on campus. Banda spoke eloquently addressing the audience as distinguished ladies and gentlemen. She immediately established that her purpose was to deliver a speech about a new admirable style of leadership.
Banda redefined leadership through a new style: servant leadership.
“Servant leadership focuses on the power for the people…A servant leader places the needs of the public ahead of their own self-interest and needs,” Banda explained.
Banda preached that power should lay in the hands of the people rather than the few established elitists. She explained that servant leaders create a fair, just, inclusive and progressive community for all members regardless of their race, tribe or religion. She continued by stating that a leader should represent the needs of the general public. Banda proclaimed that a leader’s main responsibility is to create a society where all people’s rights are protected and promoted.
Banda, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr, shared with us her personal dream for her country.
“I dreamed of a society where all citizens enjoyed their freedom,” Banda said. “I dreamed of a society where a government put in programs to eradicate poverty. I dreamed of a society where leadership was there to serve and not be served.”
Banda not only dreams about a better society, but tirelessly works to create a better community in Africa. Prior to becoming the first female president of Malawi, Banda served as a minister for Gender and Child Welfare. As Minister, in 2006, she passed a Prevention of Domestic Violence bill to help prevent others from abusing women and children. In addition, Banda lowered the mortality rate for pregnant mothers giving birth. She was able to reduce the mortality death rate from 675 per 100,000 to 460. She sold the country’s multimillion dollar presidential jet and now flies commercially for the numerous events she attends worldwide. Banda did not think it was fair for her to use extravagant luxury items, when most citizens of her country are poor and struggling financially. Being a selfless servant leader, she does not hesitant to share her wealth. She recently reduced her salary by 30 percent to donate this portion of her income to the Malawi council for the Handicapped.
Jacob Khuri, president of the Convocation and Lectures committee, felt that Banda’s powerful message can encourage students to make a change in our community.
“She spoke about servant leadership, and I think that is a very important conversation to have on-campus as students grow to become global citizens and leaders. I hope Her Excellency’s voice initiates an engaging paradigm of leadership and true service among student on our campus during this year” Khuri said.
Banda’s tenacity, hard work and dedication to social justice and equality is unwavering.
She continues to make monumental changes in Malawi, through her organization the Joyce Banda Foundation International. Joyce Banda has impacted over 1.3 million lives and will continue to impact thousands more.
Banda’s tremendous persistence and motivation is inspirational. She ended her speech with a promise to herself and her country.
“For as long as I live, I will continue to work until the job is done,” Banda said with passion.
[photos courtesy of Skarleth Sauceda and Redlands Bulldog photographer Kat Balestrieri]