Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Man in the Arena is Greg Mortenson

Sorbonne, Paris France
April 23, 1910, exactly 101 years ago today. I like to imagine the sunny spring morning when Roosevelt made his way through the narrow streets of Paris to the Sorbonne to deliver his "Citizenship in a Republic" speech. I love imaging his voice belting out this long speech, ringing into the crowded auditorium. An excerpt from his speech is now part of me. I quote it often to myself having committed it to memory. It reminds me to stay focused in a world full of distraction.
-It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.- 

April 23, 2011, exactly today. From the reports Greg Mortenson is going through or recovering from minor heart surgery. He has been blasted this past week since the news program 60 minutes "investigated" accusations into the mishandling of donor funds for his charity that builds schools in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I've taken a deep breath, I've digested the news reports from both sides, I've spoken with friends and colleagues about these recent events surrounding Greg, who I saw speak only a few weeks ago.

Google these reports if you so choose. Having been a follower of Greg's work for many years I've been impacted by these unsettling reports maybe more than most. Having spent time in Central Asia, albeit a much safer region than where Greg goes, I have come to appreciate the amount of courage, energy and sacrifice one makes when traveling/working in some of the most remote regions of the world.

The majority of what Greg is accused of means little to me. If parts of his story don't match up, questions about funding, not enough board-members, yada yada yada. All of it can be true for all I care. We live in a world of hyper judgment, every one is a critic. I went for a run this morning and thought about Greg. Then I recited Roosevelt's quote.

I'm addicted to doers. The ones who do something with this life. Who get out, who get UP and do something. Mistakes may have been made along the way but here is a guy who has championed a voice for education in a region of the world that for so long has been repressed and forgotten.

Let me put it this way. Let's say there happens to be a house party down the street. Drinks, food, music. Sounds like a good time. I pass through the front door and see Greg in one corner and Karl Rove in another. Both seem to be telling stories, each has a small crowd listening intently. Based on everything I know, absolutely everything can turn out to be true about Greg and I'll take his insights about life any day over the alternative.

There are evil people in this world. Greg Mortenson is not one of them.


Anonymous said...

you have got to read the devastating 89 pages of Jon Krakauer's painstaking (and pained) reportage before you blithely blather like this. Mortenson is -- to not put too fine a point on it -- stealing from schoolchildren. Posts like this sound oddly unresearched in the post-Krakauer world.
PS since you clearly missed his reporting, here it is

Brad said...

Well Anonymous, that is certainly the opposing view to my, as you say, blithely blather post. I thank you for the comment and providing the link to Jon's vignette but will (not surprisingly) pass on putting all my Easter eggs in Mr. Krakauer's basket.

Don said...

Mortenson has provided a great service to us all by providing some understanding of the people, places and customs of Afghanistan. He is the visionary that brought the face of the Afghanistan adults and children to the rest of the world, and not a warriors version. Is Greg controversial, sure, but he got us at least discussing and arguing about the people of Afghanistan. Anonymous has missed bigger broader perspective of the Mortensen actions, he started the dialog and continued the discussions. He is the man in the Arena with a vision.

Don said...

CNN has a program titled "In the Arena" with Eliot Spitzer in the afternoon that is usually interesting. Now I know where the program name comes from and the background and meaning associated with the title.

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