Rare honour as Tabichi opens US congress

Thursday, September 19th, 2019 00:00 |
2019 Global Teacher Prize award winner Peter Tabichi. Photo/PD/FILE

Global teacher award winner Peter Tabichi got a rare opportunity and one that will be remembered for a long time after he delivered the opening prayer at the US Congress on Tuesday.

Tabichi added another feather to his cap when he walked into the Capitol Building — the seat of the legislative arm of the US government — where he recited the Franciscan prayer for peace.

This came a few hours after the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School teacher met President Donald Trump at the White House and inked his name in history books — a no mean feat for a man who was relatively unknown until six months ago.

“It was a great privilege and honour to open the US Congress with the Franciscan prayer for peace at the Capitol, Washington DC.

What a great day! God bless us all,” the Chemistry and Mathematics teacher at the Nakuru school said in a tweet.

Tabichi, 36, joins a short list of Africans who have addressed the US Congress — the most powerful branch of the US federal government. He was the guest chaplain. The prayer underscores the need for forgiveness, humility and fortitude. 

Often associated with the Italian Saint Francis of Assisi, the peace prayer shot to fame during both World War I and World War II and has been frequently set to music by notable songwriters and quoted by prominent leaders.

 Mother Teresa of Calcutta made the prayer part of her morning prayers where she is said to have attributed importance to the prayer when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1979.

The prayer has since become an anthem in many Christian schools in Kolkata.

Greatest moment

And, speaking to Varkey Foundation chairman Vikas Pota at the iconic Lincoln Memorial shortly after meeting Trump, Tabichi said he was elated, adding that it was one of the greatest moments of his life. 

“I was quite happy to meet and I took that opportunity to share with him about where I teach and how I teach and about Kenya,” he said.

He said he briefed Trump about the challenges teachers go through in the rural parts of Africa, adding that he listened to him carefully throughout.

“I discussed with him how teachers come in to offer solutions and how teaching is a noble profession,” said Tabichi.

“I encouraged him and also appreciated his role in promoting science and education in Africa. He was so happy and listened to me carefully. Meeting such a powerful man on earth was a wonderful experience for me,”  he said. 

According to him, Trump showed willingness to support education and science subjects especially in Africa. A staunch Catholic, Tabichi is a Brother and a member of the Franciscan Order.  

He clinched the coveted  2019 Global Teacher Prize award after beating 50 other finalists in a ceremony held in Dubai in March.

He is the first African teacher to win the award, which comes with a $1 million (Sh100 million).

Tabichi has since been appointed the global ambassador for Varkey Foundation which, sponsors the annual event that attracts participants  worldwide. 

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