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Dr. John Francis, well-renowned Planetwalker visits Stamford American

19 September 2016
Dr. John Francis, well-renowned Planetwalker visits Stamford American

“Thank you for being here,” said Dr. Francis at the start of each of his sharing sessions, the very same words that he first uttered when he ended his silence on Earth Day 1990. He told the assembled crowd, “Environment is about how we treat each other.”

Stamford American was honored to welcome Dr. John Francis, on campus from September 19 to 23, 2016 as part of its Global Mentor Program. The environmentalist Planetwalker cum United Nation Ambassador spoke with Secondary Students and planetwalked with our International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) students during the week.

After witnessing the devastation caused by the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill, Dr. Francis stopped riding in motorized vehicles and walked for 22 years in which 17 of those were in silence. During his vow of silence, he walked the length of both North and South America on foot and sail, and earned three degrees including a Masters in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana-Missoula, and a PhD in Land Resources from the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Stamford American students had the opportunity to listen to him sharing on the importance of listening, how he could express his emotions with his banjo instead of speech and understand that respecting the environment is how we treat each other as the human environment. To experience the Planetwalker’s journey more intimately, our IBDP students took a twoday walk with Dr. Francis in Singapore. With Dr. Francis’s experience in mind, the students planned an excursion that included architectural wonders and the natural jungle habitat of Singapore. Bringing along his well-loved banjo, Dr. Francis walked with the students an inspired them with the transformative power of silence. Students photographed, painted and wrote poems as they walked and these were presented during assemblies in the Reagan Theater towards the end of the week.

Dr. Francis rediscovered the rhythms in nature that most of us have forgotten and learned to communicate his knowledge and empathy without speaking a word. Both teachers and parents were inspired.

“His silence speaks volumes to all who truly listen. How wonderful it has been to share the message that learning to listen can in fact unlock within us the joy of listening to learn.” - Polly Meadows, Humanities Teacher

“Congratulations to Stamford for having Dr. John Francis as a Global Mentor. I attended the Grade 7 assembly and Dr. Francis was such an inspiration…I am glad students get the exposure to such influences and role models. I am sure there will be many from the assembly that will remember this for a lifetime, just as I would. As Dr. Francis will say, I am now a part of his journey, just as he has become a part of mine… “ - Mr. Vikrant, Grade 1 Parent

Dr. Francis is the founder of Planetwalk, a non-profit environmental awareness organization. He served as Project Manager for the United States Coast Guard Oil Pollution Act of 1990 Staff, and authored Planetwalker: 17-Years of Silence, 22-Years of Walking, and Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World.

Unique to Stamford American, the Global Mentor Program invites some of the world’s inspirational minds, industry leaders, artists and athletes to engage with students, inspiring and motivating by sharing their life experiences. Students have benefitted from visits by General (Ret.) David Petraeus, former U.S. military commander and CIA Director, Jane Seymour, an Emmy-award winning stage and screen actress, Mr Peter Grauer, Chairman of Bloomberg LP, Sir James Mirrlees, 1996 Nobel Laureate for Economics, Professor Ei-ichi Negishi, 2010 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry and Professor Ada. E. Yonath, 2009 Nobel
Laureate for Chemistry.

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