The Author

James Roth stood in stunned silence. A young attorney and policymaker, he came to Lusaka as part of an effort to strengthen Zambia’s relations with the United States. Increasing trade, investment and high-level diplomacy were all discussed in a long meeting with Zambian President Frederick Chiluba.

As everyone prepared to leave, President Chiluba spoke up, adding one more item to the agenda. In front of the hushed group, Chiluba stared into James’ eyes and asked a question that would change his life: “Will you help a young golfer named Madalitso Muthiya earn an athletic scholarship to an American university?” Although his brain shouted in protest, James broke the awkward silence with the only possible answer.

“Yes, Mr. President.”

His irritation over this off-the-wall assignment was mirrored on the face of the boy’s father at their first meeting. Peter Muthiya didn’t want this arrangement any more than James did. The mere thought of it caused Peter to bristle as old images resurfaced. But after a couple hours—and 3 or 4 beers—both realized that success meant working together.

Months passed as skeptical coaches refused to even watch Madalitso play. Stress from their failing mission brought them closer together. Through courage and a leap of faith they began sharing the personal details of their lives.

James Roth & Madalitso Muthiya


“The bond between Roth and Muthiya (nicknamed “Mad”) was instant, and the golfer became a holiday and summer fixture of Roth’s parents. Sometimes, he worked at the couple’s French restaurant, Charles at Smuggler’s Cove in Mukilteo.”


A fiercely private man, Peter described his deep and unbreakable passion for golf, along with the painful journey endured by his family. Through these private conversations, James soon realized that he was part of something far more meaningful than an athletic scholarship. It was in pursuit of this greater ambition that Peter, Madalitso and James—three unlikely partners—locked arms on a quest that would change each of them and redefine history.

But the success or failure of this impossible mission would ultimately rest on Madalitso’s slender shoulders, a soft-spoken teenager with an unlikely talent. His challenge was to overcome countless barriers that the world erected over centuries to prevent him from doing the very thing he was blessed to do.

James Roth, Madalitso & Peter Muthiya

More About James Roth

A passion for finding solutions and communicating with people has defined James Roth’s 25 years in policymaking.

An attorney, public affairs executive and strategist, James currently devotes his energy and experience to solving one of the greatest threats of our time—climate change. Leading policy and government affairs for Conservation International, James oversees a globally respected team that negotiates international treaties, including the Paris Agreement and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. In conversations with senior government officials around the world and in the United States he advocates for strengthened national laws protecting the environment.

As a senior staffer in the United States Senate, he launched and chaired the Moderate Democrat Senators Working Group, a core wing of the Democratic Caucus that was critical to achieving consensus among both Democrats and Republicans on Wall Street reform, healthcare, global intellectual property protection, and other complex issues. Serving in two White House Administrations as part of the President’s negotiating teams, he helped forge international trade agreements between the United States and countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

In the private sector he steered policy and government affairs for Starbucks. In this role, James and his team designed and managed outreach, messaging, and political strategies that advanced international trade, promoted sustainable agriculture, protected employee benefits, and helped transition military veterans to the private sector.

James travels overseas extensively, speaking with foreign governments on various public policy matters and has appeared on television advocating for nature conservation.

He began his career in private law practice, and as a law school student spent his free time working with inner city youth as part of the YMCA’s “Late Night” program.

It was James’ penchant for advocacy and problem solving that moved him to accept the most unconventional challenge of his careerhelping find a golf scholarship for Madalitso Muthiya, a teenager he didn’t know who lived in a country halfway around the world.

By the time this mission was complete, James had a deeper and far more personal rewardhis close relationship with Madalitso and his father, Peter.

This Moments Publications

This Moment Publications is inspired by the human spirit, its strength, resilience, and genius.

Chasing a dream inevitably ushers in the moment when all the preparation, rehearsal, and prayers, must be set aside. The time to perform has arrived—to take the exam. Interview for the job. Walk onto the stage. Deliver the speech. Hit the ball.