By Robbie Ward
STARKVILLE – International humanitarian and best-selling author Greg Mortenson found allies Thursday in Starkville and Mississippi State University in his quest to help bring about world peace.
Mortenson, who established more than 145 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, visited MSU as part of Maroon Edition, a campuswide reading program.
His message – that one person can make a difference – has affected hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and throughout the rest of the world.
Speaking to MSU Shackouls Honors College students and a larger audience in Humphrey Coliseum on Thursday, Mortenson encouraged others to help people in need.
He also spoke about the importance of tolerance and education of others who have differences. For Mortenson, who grew up in Tanzania as the son of Lutheran missionaries, religious tolerance seemed like second nature.
Recent debates related to immigration and whether a mosque should locate near Ground Zero has led to increased national discussion about American religious and cultural tolerance.
Seeing such intolerance, whether in the United States or in other parts of the world, stirs a visceral reaction for Mortenson.
“It almost makes me sick inside,” he said. “Most people are 98 percent the same. But we fight about our differences all the time.”
He pointed to Starkville’s efforts to promote tolerance by learning more about Afghanistan and Pakistan. To help achieve this, MSU promoted Mortenson’s book, “Three Cups of Tea,” and encouraged the entire campus to read and discuss it. Similar efforts through Starkville READS led to discussions citywide.
“You see yourselves as part of a global society,” he said, speaking to a group of students. “Starkville has resolved to practice tolerance.”
Inspired by Mortenson’s actions and education advocacy, Annie Goodwin of Tupelo, an elementary education major and Shackouls Honors student, said she understood his calling.
“Children want to be educated,” she said.
Contact Robbie Ward, a MSU public policy and administration graduate student, at email@example.com.