Friday, March 04, 2011

Author and Humanitarian Greg Mortenson visits Springfield

The University of Illinois Springfield welcomed Greg Mortenson, co-founder of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute, Pennies for Peace and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea to campus on Thursday, March 3, 2011.

Mortenson started his day with a visit to Springfield Public School’s Laketown Elementary where he spoke to more than 200 children about what we all have in common, slavery, racism, poverty and bullying. Mortenson also spoke about his effort to build schools in Central Asia and the lack of resources available to students.

“I’ve been working in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 18 years to help children have the right to go to school,” said Mortenson.

Mortenson calls himself an advocate for education, having helped establish over 141 schools, and another five dozen temporary refugee schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The effort has provided an education to over 64,000 children, including 52,000 girls, who often have few education opportunities.

Following the visit to Laketown, Mortenson visited with UIS students in the Lincoln Residence Hall Greatroom. Students got the chance to ask questions, get books signed and hear Mortenson speak.

“What I would like our students in particular to take away is that one person can make a huge difference in the world and in the lives 10’s of thousands of people. Just by having the vision and tenacity to stay after whatever that vision is,” said Tim Barnett, UIS Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs.

UIS students also led a Pennies for Peace fundraising drive, which collected over $500 to buy school supplies and help pay teachers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sophomore Management Information Systems major Caitlin Crane led the effort.

“Reading that book was absolutely inspiring. I was completely blown away by his determination and drive to change the world,” said Crane.

Three Cups of Tea is mandatory reading for all U.S. military commanders and Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan. The book has sold over four million copies and has been published in 45 countries. Mortenson’s new book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan, was recently released.

Several bi-partisan U.S. Congressional representatives have nominated Mortenson three times for the Nobel Peace Prize in both 2009, 2010 and 2011. President Obama designated $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize award to be donated to Mortenson’s effort in Afghanistan in March 2010.

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