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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Speaker stresses importance of education, empowerment

Greg Mortenson, author and humanitarian, spoke Thursday night about “Promoting Peace Through Education” in the Humphrey Coliseum at Mississippi State University.
He visited MSU’s campus as a part of the activities of this year’s Maroon Edition of “Three Cups of Tea.” Students, faculty and residents of the Starkville community came to hear the author discuss his work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, building schools for impoverished children, especially young girls.
Mortenson said, after a failed attempt to reach the K2 summit, he passed a village where he saw children scribbling in the dirt. When a young girl asked Mortenson to build a school for them, he promised he would. The first school built by Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute was completed in 1996. Since then, the Central Asia Institute has built more than 150 schools.
Another organization that blossomed from Mortenson’s work is called the Pennies for Peace program. Students in over 5,000 schools raise money for the Central Asia Institute simply by bringing pennies to school, Mortenson said.
He said he sees a lot of people who do humanitarian or missionary work who, after years of service, experience burnout. He said if someone wants to make a difference in the world, he or she needs to become a stronger person who looks after his or her mental and emotional well-being.
Mortenson said he remembers once talking with a village elder who pointed to numerous stones littering a nearby mountaintop. The elder told Mortenson that each stone represented a young martyr and those stones must now be turned into schools. The idea for Mortenson’s next novel, “Stones to Schools,” was born in that moment.
Mortenson said the Taliban typically does not attack any of the schools he has built because while he helps to procure teachers, training and support, the villagers provide the land and the labor.
He said the people’s “sweat equity” is a huge reason why the Taliban usually does not attempt to shut down the Central Asia Institute’s schools.
“I think the Taliban’s greatest fear is not a bullet, but a pen,” Mortenson said. “The real enemy is ignorance. Ignorance breeds hatred.”
He said educating women reduces infant mortality and slows the population explosion. He said he believes the real driving force in a student’s life is the community, the family and especially the mother. Mortenson said he has noticed that girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan who know how to read will often teach their mothers.
“It is a very empowering thing that happens,” Mortenson said of educating girls. “If we want to really help people, we need to empower people.”  

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Speaker stresses importance of education, empowerment