Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi on the Value of Anger, and Youth

Sep 15, 2016

It may seem odd that a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate promotes anger. But that is exactly what 2014 winner Kailash Satyarthi believes is necessary for change to occur in the world. 

"If you're angry towards things that one does that are not right, then we can strongly protect that anger, preserve it properly and turn it into a very positive energy. Because it is an energy that can be transformed into positive energy in new ideas and finding solutions, and then you put those ideas in action to make the world a better place, and that I have been doing. And I'm still angry. I don't think that the anger is ever gone from me."

That anger, the anger that would eventually lead him to be one of the world's foremost leaders in combating child labor and slavery, started in his youth, when he witnessed a boy his age outside the school gates, cleaning and making shoes with his father while Satyarthi went to school. Satyarthi stopped to ask the boy's father why he wasn't going to school.

"He said, 'You don't know that we people are born to work.' And, in fact that made me angry and gave me a new perspective in my life and in my childhood that something is wrong somewhere and people are trying to convince me in a different way. The reality is that there is something which is imposed on them and that is an evil which cannot be tolerated. So I started helping children."

"If one single child is enslaved anywhere in the world, we cannot call ourselves civilized."

He sees that same anger, hope, and capacity for action in young people today.

"The youth are not only energetic, but their minds and souls are purer. They have much more stronger component of idealism and morality. If it is properly harnessed and promoted, then they can definitely become stronger moral vises than the elderly people who are made to compromise on many things."

That attitude means Satyarthi dedicates his time to fostering youth leaders.

"I strongly feel that every young person is a change-maker inside, is a leader, is a champion, but slowly that goes away. So before that drains their hope, it is important to build youth leadership right from the bottom to top. This should be considered not the future of humankind, but the present."

In this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Satyarthi about his life and work advocating for children's rights. Satyarthi will be speaking on Sept. 20th in the second floor ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa's campus at 6 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.