Born into a Maasai tribe in Northern Kenya, Joseph Lekuton was chosen to attend a missionary boarding school as a child -- sometimes walking 50 miles during vacations to find and rejoin his nomadic family. He won a scholarship to St. Lawrence University, then attended Harvard, and worked as a writer and history teacher in Virginia. He was named a National Geographic Energing Explorer for his work in sharing the culture of Kenya with America, including efforts to share educational resources with nomadic children through the BOMA Fund and Cows for Kids.
In 2006, after a plane crash killed five members of the Kenyan parliament, Lekuton decided to return to Kenya and stand for election to fill the seat in his region. He won a parliamentary seat in the 2006 by-election, and was a member of the winning party in the December 2007 elections -- the results of which continue to be contested throughout Kenya.
"In his first year in office, [Lekuton] compiled an impressive record. He channeled public funds to construct schoolrooms and boreholes for wells, lured Western development agencies to his constituency, mediated between ethnic groups in the region that have been clashing over livestock-grazing rights and access to water and distributed some of his ample salary to pay school fees and health-care costs for the indigent." New York Times Magazine