Thursday, April 21, 2011

Greg Mortenson: Entrepreneur, not CEO

I loved reading Greg Mortenson's books: 'Three Cups of Tea' and 'Stones into Schools.'
I took a two hour drive to watch him speak at St. John's University. He gave an inspiring speech followed by at least two hours of book signing where he took the time to speak to everyone in line. When it was my turn, I handed him the above two books to sign. He saw that I looked different from the University crowd and asked if I was a professor. When I told him where I had come from and how long it took to get there he offered to let me crash with him and his aides in the bus. He also gave me a signed children's book for my children. Needless to say, I was charmed.

Three days ago 60 minutes aired an investigation into his charity. At first glance, it's pretty damning. Some of the revelations:
  1. He was never rescued on his descent from K2 by the villagers of Korphe
  2. He was never kidnapped by the Taliban
  3. Half the schools he claims to have built were not built by his charity
  4. He takes money from the charity rather than adding to it
If you want more details, click below for the video and transcript of the 60 minutes episode

My belief is that Greg is a good man who has the vision and energy and good heart to dedicate his life to building schools for poor Pakistani and Afghan girls. But he is not a CEO or a CFO and is naive about finances. He is out there either raising money or building schools, neglecting his family and risking his health. I wouldn't want his life. Greg is not stealing money for his own gratification. He does not live some lavish life like a corrupt politician or preacher.

So what is the truth? I think some of the schools were built in the wrong places and are not being used. I think the Taliban is keeping others away from more schools. I think there could be people who don't like Greg, taking 60 Minutes investigators to the wrong places or to the schools at the wrong time. And I also think that Greg might be exaggerating some of his successes.

But let's not forget what he has accomplished. He raised money and built schools in extremely rural parts of the world and educated girls. Whether he built 160 schools or 50 schools, he is making educated women in a place that really needs it. He also is teaching us how to accomplish projects in this part of the world. That is why his book is still considered required reading for the US military in the region.

He still has my support.

For another article supporting Greg, read the below editorial from today's Times

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