OSWEGO, NY – It was an Oswego Reads celebration.
Months of planning finally came to fruition on Thursday, as award winning and internationally recognized author and humanitarian Greg Mortenson captivated over 800 Oswego Middle School and elementary age students at the Ralph M. Faust Theater for the Performing Arts.
He then turned his attention on the community as he appeared before nearly 2,000 in the SUNY Campus Center in the evening.
Mortenson, author “Three Cups of Tea” is focused on children. Providing youngsters in Afghanistan and Pakistan with an education is critical to their survival.
His work is based on the proverb that with one cup of tea you are a stranger, with two cups of tea you are a friend and with three cups of tea you are family.
The effort to bring Mortenson to the community was a coordinated effort involving Pathfinder Bank President and CEO Tom Schneider, Superintendent of School Bill Crist, rivers end book store owner Bill Reilly, Oswego Director of Literacy Laura Ryder and a determined committee to provide this outstanding cultural event to the Oswego community.
Prior to his arrival in Oswego, the special guest had already experienced a busy day as he spent the morning at the United Nations in New York City. He exited the meeting as quickly as possible telling those present, “I have to go to speak to children.”
Mortenson believes that “kids are the hope for the future.”
Oswego’s students also agreed that they are here to help and generously donated a check for more than $8,000 as part of the “Pennies for Peace” initiative to build schools for children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In his visit to Oswego he had met several students and noted that many students are involved or desire to be involved with community service.
He noted this has become extremely popular as students at all levels, from elementary to college, appear to be working for the betterment of community.
And speak he did as the message of caring, educating and providing hope for all children of the world came across loud and clear.
He shared his adventures and explained how his quest to let children be children commenced. His examples of child slaves, young indoctrinated soldiers, and day long laborers displayed the plight of children around the world.
Laura Ryder, one of the key coordinators in the Oswego Reads program and the Oswego City School District Literacy Director said, “It was just so exciting to have him here and to have our children hear him speak after what they have studied about his work in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as reading ‘Three Cups of Tea.’ It is a wonderful gift having him here today.”
Continuing she said, “His message is a humanitarian message that we all need to care for each other and most importantly what a difference one person can make in this world.”
His book has been used by the military as a manual for how to deal with the elders and village leaders of various communities throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He spoke of the importance of empowerment and gaining the support of the people.
He explained, “We advise the military to meet with the elders, listen to them and empower them. One of the most exciting things is that the military is actually listening to the elders. In spending time talking to the military commanders we discussed that there is no military solution, but a much broader solution. It is unrealistic to have our military solve all of our problems. A typical soldier today has to be a warrior, a diplomat and a humanitarian. You take an 18 year old young man or woman from Central New York, a ranch in Montana or a farm in Alabama. You can’t expect them to do all those things. ”
Continuing he said, “A lot is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan and some of it may be very subtle. Some of the best things are happening in education, but without the support of media and money. There are things working.”
Mortenson says he hoped to come back to Oswego “under the radar” to spend more time with students.