Thursday, December 3, 2015

Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea
Title: Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time
Author: Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
Publication Date: 1/30/07
Pages: 349
Genre: MemoirPolitical / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've heard about it from multiple sources
Date Completed: 11/17/15

Summary: An attempt to reach the peak of K2 changed Greg Mortenson's life in a way he was not expecting. While he never finished his climb, he did set forth on a new mountain: the attempt to provide schools and education for children throughout the region.

What I Thought: If you know me and the things I care about, you know this book was right up my alley. The importance of bringing educational opportunities to, particularly female, underprivileged children cannot be overstated. As the quote below states, one of the great enemies in the world is ignorance. Education won't solve every problem, nor change every heart, but it goes a long way in changing lives and cultural mindsets. 

Mortenson's work is inspiring; there is no doubt about that. He is clearly a dedicated individual, one who does things at 110% or not at all. His passion for education has directly transformed the lives of many. He seems to approach the problems and idiosyncrasies of Middle Eastern culture with patience and a cultural sensitivity from which many attempting to affect the same type of change could learn. 

The book is also encouraging; it makes it feel like there is hope in this fight that continues to rage. It gives credence to the idea that fighting with weapons may not be the best strategy. Instead, a more effective fight may be an ideological one. 

This work is fairly dated at this point, having been published in 2007. Since that time, Mortenson has come under fire for his financial management and decisions. A quick Google search will give you the details of the investigation into his leadership at the non-profit he founded. While this does certainly put a damper on the work he has done and continues to do, I saw the situation more as misplaced responsibility. Relin makes it clear in the book that organization is not Mortenson's strong point; he likely should never have been given the responsibility of managing so much. It's clear that Mortenson himself is by his very nature and personality not everyone's, uh, cup of tea. However, when this whole journey started, there was little option outside of doing things himself. I tend to think it's good that Mortenson has since been replaced as the financial manager and overseer of the work he's doing, but is still deeply involved. As Relin says in his introduction:

"I want to see Greg Mortenson succeed. I wish him success because he is fighting the war on terror the way I think it should be conducted. ...Mortenson goes to war with the root causes of terror every time he offers a student a chance to receive a balanced education, rather than attend an extremist madrassa."
In some ways, I think the failings and imperfections of Mortenson and others who had journeyed with him make the story all the more inspiring. After all, if someone so bull-headed and  imperfect can do so much good in the world, what is holding the rest of us back? We all make mistakes, particularly when, as Mortenson, we are learning on the fly. Sure, Mortenson's mistakes were not always small ones and they have likely cost him the chance at ever receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, an award he must surely have been in consideration for on some level at some point. Still, the students sitting and learning in the schools he has helped built do not care about the awards or accolades given to the man. What matters most to them and to their villages is the gift of education they have been given. 

Quotes I Loved: "God is on the side of refugees, widows, and orphans."

From a Muslim man: "You have to attack the source of your enemy's strength. In America's case, that's not Osama or Saddam or anyone else. The enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever."

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Potentially

A Reduced Review: A powerful look at how determination and dedication can change the world, even just a little bit at a time.

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