Saturday, September 29, 2007


Mortenson has antidote to ways of war
A phenomenon hit Seattle last week. Everywhere Greg Mortenson went, people lined up to listen to his simple message about how to change the world.
A week ago at Town Hall the lines started two hours before the event. It was the same at Beacon Hill, Green Lake and Bainbridge Island. Every seat filled while more people squeezed into every available space, sitting on the floor or hearing the talk from the hallway. Hundreds of people were turned away.
What is this message that we're so ready to hear? It's the antidote to the ways of war.
Think about the way we fight terrorism. We are at war. We fear what they will do. Fear is the key word.
But there's an alternative. "If you promote peace, that's based on hope," Mortenson said at his Bainbridge talk. "The real enemy is ignorance because it's based on hatred."
Mortenson's book, "Three Cups of Tea," tells the story about how building schools -- mostly girls' schools -- is the surest way to change the world.
He said when he first wrote the book the publishers sent him a mock-up cover with the subtitle: "One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations...One School at a Time." This wasn't the message he wanted to send. He suggested: "One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ...One School at a Time."
But the publishers were firm. This was a first book -- and the odds against it were great because most nonfiction titles don't make money. So the hard cover came out and it didn't sell well.
So when the paperback was published the peace subtitle surfaced. Something worked because "Three Cups of Tea" has been on The New York Times' bestseller list for 34 weeks. This occurred because book clubs, women's groups, schools and ordinary Americans would read a copy and then buy another for someone else.
I know how this for a fact. I've known Greg for a few years and was on a committee that gave him an award for his work. A few months ago, he sent me a dozen copies of the paperback. I gave them away -- and many of the people I gave copies to, told me they read it, went out and bought more copies to pass along. It was a network of hope.
It's the same with Pennies for Peace. That started with Mortenson's first promise to build a school in a remote Pakistan village. He wrote letters to celebrities -- even getting a check for $100 from Tom Brokaw. But it wasn't enough to do anything. Then he talked to a class. A fourth-grader in Wisconsin suggested a donation from his piggy bank. Six weeks later those school kids had raised 62,342 pennies.
"It wasn't adults. It was children, reaching out to children half-way around the world," he said. "What can a penny buy? You can buy a pencil with a penny. And that gives a child hope. If you have hope, you can do anything." Soon after he raised enough for the first school, some $12,000.
Mortenson's premise starts with an African proverb: "If you educate a boy, you educate an individual, but if you educate a girl, you educate a community."
When a boy goes to school, it's assumed he will leave his village and work. But a girl stays. She grows into a woman, bears healthier children, and encourages them to be educated.
Consider the word "jihad." We know about that word in one context -- a violent quest. But the word has other meanings -- reflecting other pursuits. But before beginning a jihad, you ask permission from your mother, Mortenson said. If she is educated -- she's less likely to give approval for a violent mission.
Those who dismiss education say that many of the 9/11 hijackers were educated -- and that's true, Mortenson said. "But none of their mothers were educated."
There is an urgent need to do more, to build more schools. "There are 145 million children without education -- and the numbers are going up -- because of slavery, gender discrimination, religious intolerance and corrupt governments. It only costs $1 per month, per child to change that, roughly $6 to $8 billion per year.
Last week the Bush administration asked Congress for another $190 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Which plan is more cost effective?
On the other hand, the schooling of Afghanistan is "the most exciting news" you've never read, says Mortenson. When the Taliban was in power, only 800,000 kids were in school. Today more than 5 million children go to school -- and 1.8 million are girls. That's where we should be putting our money.
The people who stood in lines to hear Mortenson already know this. We are a nation with a generous people. We could make this world better by doubling our efforts to build schools. We even know where to find the money: Spend a few billions less on war.
Mark Trahant is editor of the editorial page. E-mail: For more information:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Young Audiences Drink In ‘Three Cups Of Tea' Author (09-26-07)

KITSAP SUN (Washington)

Young Audiences Drink In ‘Three Cups Of Tea' Author

By Tristan Baurick
Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bainbridge Island - It's been said that Greg Mortenson has won more "hearts and minds" in a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan than the mightiest military force on earth.

What's this affable ex-mountain climber's secret weapon?

"Literate, educated girls," Mortenson told a crowd of students at Bainbridge High School on Wednesday. "You can drop bombs but unless you educate girls, a society won't change."

Mortenson is the subject of the bestselling book "Three Cups of Tea." Written in partnership with journalist David Oliver Relin, the book recounts how Mortenson -- then a dedicated mountaineer -- veered from the summit of K2 and blazed a new path toward improved education in some of the most isolated regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mortenson, through his Central Asia Institute, has built more than 60 schools that support 18,000 students per year.

A better-educated population acts as a bulwark against violent extremist groups that regularly recruit from the region's poor and illiterate, Mortenson said. And better-educated girls make for future mothers with important lessons to impart to their sons.

"There's an old saying: 'When you educate a boy, you educate an individual,'" he said. "'But when you educate a girl, you educate a community.'"

The notion of putting girls in classrooms wasn't an easy sell in conservative Islamic regions, but Mortenson's vision has earned many believers abroad and at home.

Bainbridge senior Alex Oechsli is one of Mortenson's most recent converts.

"International relations start at the basic level with education," Oechsli said after Mortenson's speech. "Going town by town, person by person is how you make a real difference. That's how (Mortenson) has gone about it. He's shown the right way to do it."

Oechsli and many other students library branch manager Cindy Harrison. "I think that's because people are hungry for a positive, uplifting story from that part of the world, which seems entangled in an impossible situation."

At an afternoon appearance at Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island, over 200 people from 45 different book clubs attended a talk, where the bookstore said that he has sold more copies of "Three Cups Of Tea" than Harry Potter books.

With thousands of children enrolled in schools where none previously existed, "Three Cups of Tea" has no shortage of inspiring true tales.

raised their hands when asked whether they'd read "Three Cups of Tea." The book, which has sold over a half-million copies, was assigned reading in Bainbridge High social studies classes and was on the summer reading list for Poulsbo's West Sound Academy, where Mortenson also spoke Wednesday.

The Bainbridge Island Public Library co-sponsored an evening event with Mortenson that was expected to draw thousands to the Bainbridge High gym.

"This book has resonated in a special way with people," said Bainbridge

One of Mortenson's favorites is the story of a girl who grew up in a remote mountain village and went on to become her region's first health-care worker. After graduating from one of Mortenson's schools and receiving a college education, the girl helped dramatically reduce the annual rate of women dying during childbirth.

"It wasn't easy for her," said Mortenson. "Young boys threw stones at her when she tried to go to school. Teachers refused to teach her. She had to sit outside and listen to lessons outside. But she graduated. She learned how to deliver babies and about immunizations, and not one woman has died giving birth in her area."

If the goal of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and other parts of the Islamic world is peace, Mortenson argues that spending money on books produces a much higher return than bombs.

"We spent $95 billion last year (for the war) in Iraq," he said. "That's $10 million per hour. But it takes just a few dollars per month to send a child to school. If we did that, think of the incredible change that would have on the world."

© 2007 Kitsap Sun. All Rights Reserved. Used With Permission

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NBC Nightly News interviews Greg Mortenson on Sept 28th (Event Cancelled)

Greg Mortenson will be interviewed by Brian Williams on Sept 28th, please tune in and spread the word.

Event Cancelled - Future Date TBD...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Times Standard (Eureka, CA) - One penny at a time (09-20-07)

The Times Standard (Eureka, CA)
One penny at a time
Sharon Letts
September 20, 2007

”When I look into the eyes of children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I see my own children. I want my own kids and their counterparts to live in peace, but that will not happen unless we give them alternatives to the cycle of terrorism and war.”

-- Greg Mortenson, founder and executive director of Central Asia Institute
Rabia Sher of Arcata is planning on collecting pennies -- a lot of them.

For she knows the true value of the copper currency that many Americans consider a nuisance.

”A penny isn't valued in the states any longer,” said Sher, founder of the Roshni Center for Women in northern Pakistan, during a recent presentation at Grant Elementary School in Eureka. “But, a penny will buy a pencil in Pakistan, and one pencil will allow a child to go to school.”

Pennies for Peace is an international campaign developed by the Central Asia Institute. The campaign is focused on raising the awareness of children all over the globe about the need to help others. The program also builds schools in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sher initially saw a need for improving economic growth through educational training while visiting Pakistan in 2000.

Since that trip, she has been working to enlighten people to the plight of the Pakistanis, first opening the Roshni Center for Women -- a place that helps young women learn skills, such as sewing. Sher's latest crusade is the Pennies for Peace campaign, as well as a letter-writing project involving schoolchildren.

”I read Greg Mortenson's book, 'Three Cups of Tea,' and I thought, 'He's telling my story,'” Sher explained of the man who founded the Central Asia Institute. “After I finished reading it, I called the Pennies for Peace office in Montana and told Director Christiana Leitinger that I wanted to bring that program to Humboldt.”

The Central Asia Institute was established in 1996 after Mortenson made a trip up K2 -- the second highest mountain in the world --and after a stay in the northern mountain village of Karakoram in Pakistan, where he saw a need and was compelled to help the children there, with a bigger picture of global peace.

According to its Web site (, the organization's mission is to “promote and support community-based education and literacy programs, especially for girls, in mountain regions of Central Asia.”

”The theory is that if you educate a boy, you educate an individual,” Sher said, “but, if you educate a girl, you educate the community. Some men in Pakistan feel that it's evil to educate women, but things can and are changing slowly.”

Sher said that part of that change is due to the education of children, but to get that education, she said, the simplest needs must be met -- like owning a pencil.

The penny, or 1 percent of a dollar, represents the 1 percent of a gross domestic product goal set by the United Nations in the 1970s ( The goal was for wealthy countries to give foreign aid to impoverished nations on a yearly basis.

Sher is now bringing Pennies for Peace to Humboldt County -- one school at time. The program involves children dropping pennies into a jar in the classroom. Sher has also created a pen-pal program, which will encourage local children to write letters to children in northern Pakistan.

The pen pals and the Pennies for Peace campaign are two separate projects for Sher. She said that the pennies gathered will go to the Central Asia Institute and will be put toward the building of schools, while the letters are a more personal goal that Sher feels will enrich the lives of the children.

”The children there live in extreme poverty,” she said. “Most of them will never leave the village. I was the first foreigner they had ever seen. The letters will open up a whole new world for them.”

Grant Elementary School has joined in the campaign, and third-grade teacher Carol Goodwyn is just one of the teachers involved in both Pennies for Peace and the pen-pal program.

”Very few people actually hand-write letters today,” Goodwyn said. “Many of the children are very interested in writing letters to children their age in another country. Starting friendly letter writing also fits in our core curriculum and with the California state standards for third grade.

”The children will be able to address the standards in a real-life way, outside of the school or the family,” Goodwyn added. “It will give them a whole new perspective on what a letter can do.”

As for the Pennies for Peace campaign, Goodwyn said the school is already off to a good start.

”The day after Rabia gave her presentation on Pennies for Peace,” she said, “a fourth-grade boy came into school with a bag of pennies and said, 'Where's the jar?'”

Grant Elementary School Principal Bill Cannady said he's happy to be a part of both campaigns, which, he said, follow the school's philosophy.

”It goes right along with the five core values from the Community of Caring established by Eunice Kennedy Shriver that our school practices: caring, respect, responsibility, trust and family,” he said. “It's what we have to do in this world.”

For more information about Pennies for Peace, visit the Web site at To find out how to get involved in Pennies for Peace locally, or to be a part of the pen-pal program, call Rabia Sher at 826-7123, or e-mail her at
(c) 2007 Times Standard. All Rights Reserved. Used With Permission.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Montana State University Lecture by Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson, the Bozeman man who has garnered international acclaim for his efforts to build schools in remote, mountainous regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, challenged MSU students to find their own ways to change the world.

Watch the event

Friday, September 14, 2007

PBS NOW on the News with Maria Hinojosa (09-14-07)

Interview Excerpts:

"If you look at 9/11 highjackers, certainly they were educated, some even had university degrees, but nobody really checked their mothers, who were nearly all illiterate.""The international community, the Pakistan and Afghan governments and the U.S. really failed to go to the next level and provide education to the children.""[Mullahs and Imams] are even more antagonistic towards girls going to schools because they do know if the girls have an education, they pretty much have lost their power.""If we put one percent of the money that we put in the war on terror into education, it could have a profound difference."
More details can be found at:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Three Cups of Tea is # 5 NY Times bestseller (09-13-07)

Three Cups of Tea is # 5 NY Times bestseller (nonfiction paperback) for Sunday 9/23/07
Week # 32 in a row since release and surging!
Over 500,000 copies sold now.
Thanks for your support.

Greg Mortenson

Saturday, September 1, 2007

CAI @ ISNA Convention (09-01-07)

For the first time "Central Asia Institute" had a presence at the ISNA convention, Out of a crowd of 40 thousand, over 1500 attendees stopped by the CAI booth and picked up a copy of the book. A dozen volunteers helped in distributing books and booklets and spread the good word.