Humanitarian Greg Mortenson Promotes Peace at 2010 Schooler Lecture

March 26, 2010

“To do business in Afghanistan or Pakistan, you need three cups of tea,” said Greg Mortenson, former mountaineer, co-founder of two non-profit organizations and co-author of Three Cups of Tea, at the 2010 Mount Union College Schooler Lecture on Tuesday, March 23.

Mortenson explained that during the first cup of tea you are considered a stranger, the second cup you are a friend and the third you are considered family. 

“And for family, you are prepared to do anything, even die,” he said.


Mortenson is among one of three foreigners to receive the highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan), for his courage and humanitarian efforts to promote girls’ education and literacy in rural areas, and in 2009 he was nominated for the Novel Peace Prize.  Mortenson explained that though there is an increase in the number of females attending school, 118 million children aren’t in school today and 78 million of those are women. 

Today, in some countries children are forced to work, become a soldier or are forced into modern day slavery. 

“I thought we got rid of slavery a long time ago, but it exists today,” said Mortenson.  “As a result, children lack the education that empowers them.” 

Mortenson established more than 131 schools in rural areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, providing education to more than 58,000 children, including 44,000 females.  He quoted an African proverb and said, “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual.  If you educate a girl, you educate a community.” 

Through his father, Mortenson learned that everyone can be empowered, and he believes that it is civic engagement and empowerment that is the basis of schools today.  Like the first chapter of Three Cups of Tea, entitled “Failure,” Mortenson understands that everyone fails, but with the right resources everyone can succeed.  As an example of his own teachings, Mortenson explained how he received a 1.8 grade point average during his first year of college, but by graduation he earned a 3.2 grade point average because an administrator reached out to help him. 

Mortenson explained that to make a difference, individuals need to listen, have respect and build relationships.

“We can’t live life in fear,” he said. “We have to live in hope.”

His numerous honors include the Peacemaker of the Year Award, the Men’s Journal Anti-Terror Award, Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award and the Medical Education Hall of Fame Award, among others.

Three Cups of Tea has earned the New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller list for more than two years.  The book received the Kiriyama Peace Book Award, and was Time magazine’s 2006 “Asia Book of the Year.” Three Cups of Tea has sold more than three million copies, has been published in 34 countries and is used in more than 90 colleges and universities, including Mount Union. In addition, it is a mandatory reading for all senior U.S. military commanders, military officers in counter-insurgency training and U.S. Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan. The book is also used for training at the Norwegian War College.

                       Students from Alliance, Marlington, West Branch and Sebring high schools had the opportunity to meet Greg Mortenson

The Schooler Lecture Series was established in 1988 through a grant made by the Schooler Family Foundation of Coshocton, OH. Through the gift, the College is able to provide a dramatically enhanced opportunity for young men and women studying at Mount Union and for residents in the greater Alliance area to experience the breadth and depth of American culture.

Past Schooler lecturers have included the late former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford; the late astronomer Carl Sagan; former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop; former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; late former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick; former hostage Terry Anderson; Schindler’s List author Thomas Keneally; the late holocaust survivor Leopold Page; Apollo 13 Commander James Lovell; Rabbi Laureate Harold Kushner; former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; environmental conservationist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; media specialists Cokie and Steven Roberts; the Archbishop Desmond Tutu; former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young; world-renowned marine biologist Dr. Robert Ballard; the late and former moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press Tim Russert; documentary filmmaker Ken Burns; political analysts James Carville and Mary Matalin; and writer and commentator Fareed Zakaria.

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