Carleton President Emeritus Lewis to Speak About Former President of Botswana

April 13, 2007
By Andrew Navratil ’07

Carleton College President Emeritus and professor of economics Stephen R. Lewis Jr. will appear Wednesday, April 18 at 4:30 p.m. in Carleton’s Gould Library Athenaeum. Lewis will discuss the memoirs of former president of Botswana Quett Ketumile Joni Masire, titled “Very Brave or Very Foolish? Memoirs of an African Democrat” and edited by Lewis. The talk, which will be followed by a booksigning and reception, is free and open to the public.

Lewis and Masire have been friends and colleagues for over 30 years. At a banquet in honor of Masire’s retirement in 1998, Lewis asked him if he was planning to write his memoirs. “He said ‘I will if you help me,’” Lewis recalled. “I readily agreed.”

“Very Brave or Very Foolish? Memoirs of an African Democrat” (MacMillan, 2006) chronicles the evolution of Botswana’s uniquely successful political and economic development. Despite the desperate economic and geopolitical conditions faced by Botswana when it gained independence in 1966, the country has since enjoyed unparalleled economic and political success. Botswana has held multiparty elections every five years, achieved one of the highest rates of economic growth in the world over the past 40 years, and is judged the least corrupt country in Africa. “In the book president Masire has laid out in some detail how and why he and his colleagues in government made the choices, both economic and political, that they did,” said Lewis. “In that sense it is a handbook on how to build a successful democracy and a successful economy.”

In 1962, Masire founded the Botswana Democratic Party and later served as Botswana’s vice president and minister of finance from 1966 until 1980 and then as the president of Botswana from 1980 until 1998. An economist with a specialty in developing economies, Lewis began his long association with Botswana and Masire in 1975, when he was hired to serve as economic consultant to the ministry of finance and development planning for the government of Botswana, a position he held until 1988. During that time, Lewis traveled extensively back and forth between the United States and Botswana.

In 1983, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Order of Meritorious Service by the Botswana government. President Masire visited Lewis and Carleton College in 1992, 1996 (when Masire was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Carleton), and 2005. Lewis served as president of Carleton College from 1987 to 2002 and was elected chairman of the board of RiverSource Funds, the Minneapolis-based mutual fund group, in January 2007.

Copies of “Very Brave or Very Foolish? Memories of an African Democrat” are available for purchase at a 15 percent discount at the Carleton bookstore and will also be sold at the event. For more information, contact the Carleton bookstore at (507) 646-4153 or the Gould Library Athenaeum at (507) 646-4260.