Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Evening with Greg Mortenson

Upright Opinion
Dallas, November 14, 2010

An Evening with Greg Mortenson
By Saeed Qureshi
The legendry humanitarian Greg Mortenson spoke on the evening of November 13, before a mammoth audience in the spacious banquet hall of Hilton Anatole hotel that was proverbially packed to its capacity. Almost all the 1200 guests who were invited to attend the august assemblage turned up to listen to this illustrious philanthropist of the present times. Of these 20 per cent were the white Americans, while the remaining were from other communities.
Dressed in the Afghanistan cum Pakistan’s Tribal traditional dress of shalwar Kameez and a vest, Greg was glaringly conspicuous on the stage with his silhouetted imposing physical frame and a generous smile. His address delivered with force and fluency, was listened with rapt attention, and punctuated intermittently with thunderous applause from the mesmerized audience.
Greg looked like a monument of simplicity, modesty, humility, and abiding dedication. With his signature broad smile, he kept moving back and forth on the stage during his address, which was an abridged narration of his accomplishments spread over almost two decades now. His most outstanding yet unsurpassed achievement is to establish 168 schools in the most dangerous terrains of Pakistan and Afghanistan where 68000 students including around 40000 girls have received education.
As he told his audience, his noble mission to educate the young students in the remote and far-flung regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan began with an incident that became the stepping-stone for this life-long endeavor geared towards spreading literacy in such parts of the world where even Angels tread with fear.
His younger sister Christa Mortenson, patient of epilepsy died in 1992 at the age of 23. As if to pay homage to her, he decided to scale the K-2, the second highest peak in the world. He did not quite succeed in his adventure but met with impoverished mountain dwellers who infused in him an irresistible passion and profound compassion to build schools in the Northern regions situated on the high altitudes.
In my previous article on Greg captioned “Greg Mortenson--a role model humanitarian” the broad features of his success story soaked in untold sufferings and unspeakable travails, have been given. You can also read his book,” Three Cups of Tea” that he wrote to unravel a multi-layered strategy premised on interaction with the people to promote his altruistic mission. The three cups denote three steps of relationship: one that of the family, one with friends, and one beyond. During his journey to build schools, he has risked his life and has passed through indescribable hardships. Still all these afflictions could not derail or detract him from his chartered path, weaken his indomitable resolve or subdue his spirit to waver from pursuing his sublime yet abiding undertaking.
The November 13 event with a grand gala dinner was convened to launch his new book, “Stones into Schools” in Dallas. His earlier publication, “Three cups of Tea” has been New York Times” bestseller for 189 weeks. That book has become a required reading in 200 universities, in over 1000 high schools, thousands of books clubs, and also a ‘must read’ for the Pentagon officers.
Greg’s philosophy of creating awareness and spreading education is simple. His CAI (Central Asia Institute) that he heads follows the motto of prompting peace by building schools and bridges in place of firepower. His belief is that education was the best weapon to empower the impoverished, uneducated, and backwards communities around the world. He exhorts that it was better to empower than help and that empowerment comes through knowledge. Greg unflinchingly stresses more on the female education that the male. He reasons that educating girls was vital because it helps in alleviating poverty, reducing infant mortally, decreasing population growth, improving quality of life and to continue the cycle of education.
The local organizers performed a marvelous and commendable job from registering the guests to providing them the allocated seats. They have been toiling for several months now to make this occasion a memorable success. It was due to their effective publicity and brilliant public relationing blitz (Azad Khan’s radio is one among these) that the event turned out to be an amazing accomplishment. Although the lighting was comparatively dim and the chandeliers switched off during the speeches, yet there must be some method or wisdom in this kind of madness.
The exorbitant parking fee was unnecessary because it was not a business promotional event. It was primarily a cultural come charitable event. Alternatively, the parking charges should have been part of the ticket cost. The Qawwali program presented at the end was a marvelous soul stirring novelty that lifted the spirits with its mystical aura and spiritual ambience.
What do you think about the food served in the “grand gala dinner?”

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