A “Lost Boy of Sudan,” Samuel Garang Akau came to the U.S. five years ago at the age of 19. He enrolled in community college, then transferred to Stanford. Last month, he was graduated from Stanford with a degree in English, after winning honors for creative writing.
Akau, a native of south Sudan . . . ran away from his home village at the age of 8, fleeing the violence of Africa’s longest-running civil war.
Like thousands of other children, Akau then wandered from village to village, leaving each when it became dangerous. At the Kenyan refugee camp where Akau arrived in 1995, tens of thousands of refugees usually had one meal every day, but sometimes there was nothing to eat for two or three days, Akau said. When they were too hungry to read or study, Akau and his friends would tell one another stories, he said.
. . . As an undergraduate, Akau learned to love, in particular, the writing of Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Ishmael Reed and Edward Albee, he said. And his favorite, Thomas Jefferson.
He likes to think of how the future of a nation was based on the ideas of men like Jefferson and James Madison, Akau said. American history gives him hope, he added. “Every country at some point has gone through trouble,” he said. Resolving problems “is a matter of whether people are committed and willing to do something about it.”
He plans to work in the U.S. to earn money to pay school fees for his brother and cousins in Africa, then return to Sudan to help rebuild the country.