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Muhammad Yunus Honored with 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom
By Steve Schueth

On August 12, 2009, President Obama will recognize Dr. Mohammed Yunus with a 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom.  He will be one of 16 recipients of America’s highest civilian honor this year. 

The award is designed to recognize individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."  As the president put it, “Each (of the recipients) has been an agent of change.  Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.” 

This certainly rings true in the case of Yunus, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.  Against the advice of banking and government officials in Pakistan, Yunus established Grameen Bank and has devoted the past 33 years to extending credit to the poor and providing an opportunity for entrepreneurship to those who have sought to better their livelihoods and communities.  As a pioneer in “micro-lending,” Yunus has become a leader in anti-poverty efforts as Grameen Bank has helped lift 100 million people out of poverty. 

Yunus’ community banking model has spread around the world.  It’s been proven effective at combating poverty, and it’s been proven to be profitable.  Despite lending to poor individuals, primarily women, and maintaining low interest rates, 98 percent of Grameen Bank loans have been repaid—a remarkably high rate for any bank, especially given the current state of global banking and credit institutions. 

Yunus is a not only a visionary, but a delightful human being.  I first met him in the early 1990s when I was at Calvert and he joined the Board of Trustees of the new Calvert World Values Fund.  He speaks passionately about how to eliminate the scourge of poverty and serves as a role model for those who view the free market as a source of positive social change.

Yunus is an outstanding example of the tremendous accomplishments that can be derived from directing the flow of investment capital in transformative ways. 

Steve Schueth
President
steveschueth@firstaffirmative.com

Posted: August 5, 2009