What Eleni Gabre-Madhin knows for sure

Illustration: Luke Wilson

4 of 20
Eleni Gabre-Madhin, on Coming Home
Former World Bank economist Eleni Gabre-Madhin returned to her native Ethiopia in August 2004 with the goal of establishing the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, which would allow small farmers to more easily buy and sell products and store their surpluses rather than waste them. Gabre-Madhin's vision is that the exchange, which opened in April 2008, will help Ethiopia feed itself.

In 1984–85, the year of the famine that killed nearly a million Ethiopians, I was an undergraduate at Cornell. At dinner one night, other students started throwing food. And suddenly—shocking myself—I got up on a chair and I screamed, "Stop doing this! In my country people are starving!" In that moment, I knew that I owed my country something.

Anywhere the struggle is great, the level of ingenuity and inventiveness is high.

We spend most of our lives cutting down our ambitions because the world has told us to think small. Dreams express what your soul is telling you, so as crazy as your dream might seem—even to you—I don't care: You have to let that out. 

As told to Tish Durkin