We agreed this was not great literature, but a story worth reading about a complex charismatic with an important lesson for anyone interested in international relations. I was struck by the thought that if Greg Mortenson had appeared in my library during the days he was living out of his car and writing fundraising letters to famous people one by one, I probably would have figured he was a well-meaning dreamer with a very loose hold on sanity and no chance of succeeding with his “project.” Another reminder that appearances can be profoundly deceiving.
Members expressed admiration for Mortenson’s courage and perseverance, and appreciation for some insight into life in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. While the tone of the book was very flattering of Mortenson in many respects, there was also enough revealed about his setbacks and weaknesses that many questions came up in discussion. Will his organization be able to continue its work once he’s not there to lead it? DJ noticed that when he had the chance to speak with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon back home, Mortenson was not able to bring the open-hearted attitude of respectful listening he so notably offered when traveling abroad. She observed that tends to be a challenge for all of us…
We talked about the familiar profile of a powerful progressive leader who is far less than ideal to those he or she lives and works with. All the same, DV praised Mortenson as a great example of “why nerds are so wonderful!”
B suggested that we need a similar champion for schools in distressed communities in our own country.
W gave us sobering food for thought with a brief outline of the story of Afghanistan’s last 100 years, including the expulsion of the British – twice – then the defeat of the Russians, followed not long after by the arrival of United States troops.