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Westmont Hopes President’s Breakfast Speaker Will Help Fuel Local ‘Engine of Innovation’

Microcredit pioneer and international icon Muhammad Yunus is expected to share thought-provoking insight valuable at the community level

The first person since Martin Luther King Jr. to earn a Nobel Peace Prize, a U.S. Presidential Medal and the U.S. Congressional Medal will headline this year’s Westmont College President’s Breakfast.

Muhammad Yunus

International icon Muhammad Yunus has been called a social entrepreneur and the father of microfinance lending, empowering and uplifting those who typically cannot take out loans to start small businesses because of a lack of proper capital and “good credit.”

Organizers of the ninth annual event are touting the Feb. 28 talk at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort as one of the most stimulating conversations to happen in Santa Barbara in 2014.

Tapping a thought-provoking, world-renowned figure from Bangladesh breaks from the typical stream of speakers at the breakfast, which is sponsored by the Westmont Foundation and local businesses to promote a discussion of significant issues within the community.

Past speakers have historically been former U.S. cabinet officials, authors or other recognizable leaders, including retired Gen. Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Although Yunus doesn’t have the same name recognition, he has helped billions of poor people through micro-lending, according to Westmont President Gayle Beebe.

“He may not be as well known in Santa Barbara as he is around the world, but it’s just been impressive,” Beebe said. “I think there is so much creativity in this town. I think what he could do for us is really start that engine of innovation. This is really an opportunity to think together.”

Yunus founded Grameen Bank in 1976 to make fair loans to the poor and loaned to more than 8.4 million struggling borrowers. Since then, his model has been replicated at more than 250 institutions in nearly 100 countries.

In addition to other awards, Yunus accepted the Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship last fall.

“I think that it’s a special opportunity for the community to hear a person who has done so much good for so many people in such a simple way,” Westmont Foundation board chairman John Ambrecht said.

A sold-out crowd of 700 to 800 listeners are expected at the breakfast, which will be held from 7 to 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 28 in the Grand Ballroom of the resort. Tickets cost $125 per person and can still be purchased online by clicking here.

“The goal of the breakfast is to bring thoughtful and trusting ideas into the community and to Westmont,” President’s Breakfast committee chairman John Davies said. “The whole idea is to bring in proven leaders. This time, instead of bringing someone that’s mostly attracted by name and position, we thought we’d find someone who’s been a world changer.

"I think it will be very insightful.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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