January 27, 2010
Renowned humanitarian, international peacemaker and
best-selling author, Greg Mortenson, delivered an inspirational
speech to more than 2,000 St. John’s University students,
administrators, faculty and staff in Carnesecca Arena and to more
than 200 in the Campus Center on the Staten Island campus on
January 26. The lectures, titled: Promoting Peace Through
Education, were presented by the Department of Student Life as
part of the Academic Lecture Series and took place during the
University’s annual Founder’s Week celebration.
Mortenson is the co-author of the New York Times No. 1
bestseller Three Cups of Tea, which earned the prestigious
Kiriyama “Peace Book Award,” and Time magazine’s 2006 “Asia Book of
the Year.” Three Cups of Tea was required reading for all
St. John’s University freshmen enrolled in the Discover New York
Inspired by an experience with school-aged children in Pakistan in
1993, Mortenson began a lifelong humanitarian campaign promoting
education in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan —
especially for girls. Since then, he has established more than 131
schools in often volatile rural areas of those two countries.
“Just fighting terrorism or those who promote terrorism is based in
fear, but promoting peace is based in hope,” Mortenson said.
“The real enemy we all face in Africa, in Afghanistan and here in
America, the real enemy is ignorance – and ignorance breeds
PowerPoint slide presentation during his lecture highlighted an
African proverb that summed up one of Mortenson’s firmest beliefs –
“If you educate a boy, you educate an individual; if you educate a
girl, you educate a community.” His conviction to educating girls
in Pakistan resulted in his banishment from the country.
Later, it was found that his attempts to do just that were in-line
with the teachings of the Koran and in turn, the fatwa was lifted
and Mortenson was given the blessing to continue his work.
Today, his schools educate more than 58,000 children – 44,000 girls
– in places where few educational opportunities had ever
In addition to his accent on education, Mortenson emphasized
community service. He welcomed Fr. Patrick Griffin, C.M.,
Executive Vice President for Mission and Branch Campuses at St.
John’s, to share some of the outreach that St. John’s University
students, faculty and employees participate in each and every day
and then went on to share the grassroots efforts to eradicate
poverty and illiteracy that have taken off in elementary school
classrooms throughout the United States.
“I think the only way we can solve poverty is that we have to touch
poverty, we have to smell poverty, we have to taste poverty and we
have to hear poverty,” Mortenson said. “What’s really
affecting that and what’s really making a difference is people –
not politicians – it’s communities and schools reaching out to
their own communities.”
Mortenson shared the story of a fourth-grader who took this to
heart and generously offered the savings in his piggy bank to help
the needy, thus launching the “Pennies for Peace” foundation which
is now in over 4,900 elementary schools in the U.S. and allows
children to reach out to other children.
Listening to elders, Mortenson explained as he returned to his
opening point, is the most important key to solving many of the
world’s problems, and what drove his own success in Asia. He
shared stories of his friends in Afghanistan – village elders, who
welcomed help from an unfamiliar American who started to listen to
their specific needs. The results speak for
themselves. The cooperation among the community members
has spread to the military presence and has paved the way for over
8.4 million (2.5 million girls) to receive an education, in a
school, in Afghanistan.
Following his lecture, fifth grade students from the Charles A.
Mulligan school in Central Islip, NY had the opportunity to present
Mortenson with the money they had raised for “Pennies for Peace.”
Each year, these students raise money from their own loose change
to present to an organization that raises awareness to global
education issues, and this year, the money was designated for
For more information and a list of upcoming speakers participating
in the Academic Lecture Series, click here.
For media inquiries, please contact Elizabeth Reilly, Associate
Director of Media Relations at St. John’s, by calling (718)
990-5789, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.