Monday, April 18, 2011

Millions for Mortenson

When Emmanuel College asked me to be the keynote speaker for their convocation ceremony last September, I just had to accept that I was their back up plan. "We tried to get Greg Mortenson," they told me with voices trailing off.

It wasn't that Mortenson was particularly hard to get - he just came with a price. A big, big price. He commanded $25k an appearance minimum. He demanded first class airfare. And the limo better be waiting outside baggage claim.

So much for Pennies for Peace. More like Millions for Mortenson.

Even though my image of Mortenson waned at that time, I still enjoyed reading "Listen to the Wind," to my 3.5 year old daughter, Isabelle, and marveled at all that he accomplished. Now, the 60 Minutes report that charges "Three Cups of Tea" is a "beautiful lie" and Mortenson's charity is taking credit for building schools that don't exist.

In defending himself against 60 Minutes, Mortenson says, "The program may appear to ask simple questions, but the answers are often complex, not easily encapsulated in 10-second sound bites." Actually, I think the key questions can be answered in a fraction of a second: Greg, were you captured by the Taliban as you claim in your books? Did you build all 170 schools you say you did? A simple yes or no will suffice.

With good work so difficult to accomplish in Afghanistan as it is, it's sad to think about what a negative impact this will have on all the honest people working so hard without even a fraction of the recognition.

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