Dr Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, was in Toronto last week. I was one of the few of who were lucky enough to get a special invitation to attend that civic reception some organizations in Toronto (including the University of Toronto BSA) threw in his honour.It was a well organized evening (for the most part). There were a few dignitaries, like Dr Suzuki, who all introduced Dr Yunus, and practically fawned over his greatness. There was a lot of hero worship on stage. Finally, it was his time to speak.Dr Yunus spoke very well. He spoke on poverty, micro-credit and the fight against poverty. He touched on all topics briefly, but gave concrete examples throughout, and filled his speech with interesting and funny anecdotes. Never drawling, never failing to keep your interest from waning, making you laugh at times, ponder at others, and leaving you wanting for more when he ended - in short, this was everything a good speech is supposed to be.
Dr Yunus also came across as a very humble and polite man. You could picture him as your next door elderly neighbour, or the gentleman waiting for the bus down the street. There's no air of false pomp and show about him; he came across as a very sincere man.
Following his speech was a Q & A where five students got to grill him on micro-credit. To their credit, the questions were not softball but tough ones like how does Grameen Bank deal with defaulters and how does he answer this criticism of microcredit and so on.
To be honest, I would love to see a head-to-head debate between Dr Yunus on micro-credit and those who deplore it as another loan shark poor tax grab - it should help clear the matter once and for all.For now though, the highlight of the week for all the attendees and the undisputed star of the evening, was Dr Muhammad Yunus.