For chemical engineer William Cahill being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship is not about the name attached to it but about scholarship and a community intent on "fighting the world's fight". In Cahill's case the cause is renewable energy and eradicating the political and economic barriers to its implementation in South Africa and the rest of the world.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: Many people at different stages of my life. Some famous people who have inspired me include Bob Marley and Roger Federer for various philanthropic reasons, and just the class with which they operated or operate. Many friends have inspired me too because of their force of character and values. But without a doubt, my main current inspiration is Elon Musk, who is using his resources to fund projects such as developing renewable energy and human exploration.
Q: What do you plan to study at Oxford and why?
A: I plan to study philosophy, politics and economics. I hope to influence [the implementation of] renewable energy to combat climate change. I believe that scientific development and technology is already where it needs to be but that its implementation has been limited by political and economic barriers. I believe that reading these subjects will allow me to approach renewable energy with an important understanding of the political and economic factors in South Africa and the world and how to work with them to achieve a greener community.
Q: Why did you apply for the Rhodes Scholarship?
A: I originally set my sights on the Rhodes Scholarship when I was 12 years old. I had always liked the idea of studying at Oxford University but I wanted to get there on the Rhodes Scholarship because I liked the rounded character that it promoted and its overarching message of "fighting the world's fight". Applying for the Rhodes Scholarship had been in the back of my mind for about 10 years.
Q: What do you hope to achieve through your involvement in this programme and at Oxford?
A: Apart from making the most of the academic opportunity, I hope to be involved with both the Oxford and the Rhodes Scholar communities. The university itself offers so much in terms of academics, sport and debate and has a very strong international representation. The Rhodes scholar community is amazing because it attracts a diverse range of people from all over the world. I plan to make the most of interacting with these interesting people, drawing on their experiences and backgrounds to enrich my own view and understanding of the world and its people.
Q: In view of recent protest around Rhodes and his statue, do you feel any ambiguity in being awarded this scholarship?
A: No I don't feel any ambiguity. When I think of the scholarship, I do not see a man, I see a community of people united under the banner of "fighting the world's fight". That is what the scholarship means to me and is the reason I applied for it. The selection committees, the scholars and everyone involved in maintaining this community represent the force of good in that fight. The scholarship has adapted itself to changing global principles and standards and as I believe in those principles, I feel no ambiguity in being awarded it.
Curated by Helen Swingler. Photo supplied.
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