Our class recently discovered news of Greg Mortenson: philanthropist, author, and speaker for the education of girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now said to be founder and advocate of a twisted, swindled, and misguided charitable cause.
CBS’s “60 Minutes” piece was on Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute and the investigation of its authenticity. The feeling I received upon the initial introduction of this information was a feeling of deflation. For a second, I felt defeated after CBS revealed evidence of the fabrication of his stories in his book Three Cups of Tea. This book was assigned to our class as mandatory reading for the semester; it served as our first introduction to what is being done and what is still needed for the education of young girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Because of Mortenson’s gung-ho nature in the book and his described passion throughout the story, we were all inspired to find our inner humanist and reach out to our community.
My thoughts? I don’t care about the recent story. It is unfair for a person who has worked for years for a cause, traveling, speaking, promoting, networking etc. to be ruined by one news story. I still believe in that Mortenson remains an inspirational speaker for the education of girls and women in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Of course, it is certainly possible for there to have been moments in which Mortenson was persuaded to receive instead of give, and promote instead of pursue; just as I am sure the very reporters who created this buzzing story have been persuaded sometime during their lives.
Mortenson is still a man of integrity. The media constantly sniffs out weaknesses in people whom we hold high in society, because they are aware that it is the most beneficial story for them in terms of ratings and copies sold and clicks on the web. If someone can go from high to low in 24 hours or less it means more praise (and income) for them. As our class expressed, “There are 3 sides to every story”. Although, in light of the recent news one side seems to be larger in my mind right now, I know that none of what the media publishes is the complete truth. If anything, this is a wake-up call for Mortenson and a reminder that he needs to return to the roots of what first sparked his passion for the CAI. People becoming hostile over this one story need to find it in themselves to do the same; we all need to remember what is most important about this organization and in life: education.
Editor’s note: This class and its charity project operates under the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation and is not affiliated with Mortenson or his CAI foundation. All the school supplies we collect are shipped to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and distributed during humanitarian missions. A full 100% of the shipping money we collect is used to ship the boxes to the troops. For more information, please visit the link below: