Muhammad Yunus tells Vanderbilt seniors to help end poverty; Nobel Peace Prize winner accepts $100,000 Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal

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Vanderbilt students should help create a world where museums have exhibits on poverty because it is a thing of the past, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Vanderbilt alumnus Muhammad Yunus told graduating seniors on Thursday as part of Senior Class Day.

“The world cannot remain the way it is,” Yunus said. “It’s our job – your job – to create the world that we want to live in. … Nobody should be a poor person in that world. There’s no need to be.”

Yunus entered Vanderbilt’s Graduate Program in Economic Development for master’s study and continued in the Economics Department at Vanderbilt for the doctorate, which he earned in 1971. He founded the Grameen Bank, which has improved the lives of millions in his native Bangladesh through small loans to fund enterprises and buy livestock. He began developing his theory of “microcredit” while a student at Vanderbilt.

“Today for me is a homecoming,” Yunus said. “Vanderbilt has played a very, very significant role in my life. … Vanderbilt has made me bold. … Unless I had gained that defiance in me, I wouldn’t have been able to do the things I did.”

Yunus and the Grameen Bank shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts fighting poverty through microcredit. In his address, Yunus said the blame for poverty belongs with unfair economic systems, not poor people.

“Nothing is wrong with (the poor),” he said. “They’re as good as anybody else. They’re as active as anybody else. They’re as creative as anybody else. They’re as smart as anybody else. … Poverty is not created by the poor people.”

Chancellor Gordon Gee awarded Yunus the second Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal and the accompanying prize of $100,000.

“Dr. Yunus is a matchless example … of how to live a fully human, peace-promoting life,” Gee said. “The methods he has implemented for alleviating poverty are practical, innovative and radically compassionate. He’s brought great distinction on this university through his work.”

The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal was created and endowed by Vanderbilt Law School graduate Ed Nichols and his wife, Janice, in honor of Edward Carmack and Lucile Hamby Nichols. Last year, first lady Laura Bush accepted the first Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal on behalf of rescue workers who responded to natural disasters around the world.

Senior Class Day is held the day before Vanderbilt’s annual Commencement ceremony. It begins with the traditional Senior Walk through the main gates of the university, followed by a program on Alumni Lawn.

For audio and video of Yunus’ address, go to

For more information on the Grameen Bank, go to For more information about Commencement at Vanderbilt, go to

Media Contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

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