Like anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook could miss it, John and I went to hear and meet Greg Mortenson tonight. He is the author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools and is the founder of the Central Asia Institute. If you haven't read these books, you really, really need to.
I don't want to tell you too much of his story, because these books are page turners and life changers. If you don't usually like non-fiction, they read like the best novel- full of action, romance, adventure, good overcoming evil and princesses being rescued.
I also can't sum up his almost two-hour talk, but if you've read the books, you've heard what he has to say. From my communicator's perspective, I learned a few things about the way he tells his story.
He has one mission: to promote peace through education. That is in his every sentence, story and smile, and it is very effective. He may have started a foundation, built hundreds of schools, educated thousands of children (mostly girls) and been nominated for two Nobel peace prizes, but he above all, he communicates about his mission. In fact, you might notice that on the first image of Three Cups of Tea above, it says his mission was to "fight terrorism." He told us that he argued with the publishers that his mission was to "promote peace" and that's what the book should say. They told him it needed to include terrorism to be a best seller, so he relented. He made a deal, however, that if it didn't become a best-seller in the first year, they'd change it. It didn't sell well at all the first year, just about 20,000 copies. So they changed it when it published in paperback and it has been on the New York Times best seller list for three years (at #2 today).
He will readily admit that he is not the greatest public speaker, but he is passionate and that is more than enough to captivate his audiences. I have heard much better speakers talk about things they care far less about (or have lived far less), and I'd pick his style any day!
I'll leave you with one other thought from his talk tonight. He asked the audience how many of us have asked our grandparents about their lives during the Great Depression, WWII, Korea, or Vietnam. Not just listened to their stories, but actually sought to learn about their lives. He said that in audiences of students of all ages all over America, about 5-10% of the crowd will raise their hands. In contrast, almost 90-100% of students in Afghanistan can tell you their grandparents' stories. In all our progressive, modern-is-better thinking, we've lost or forgotten the honor and legacy-keeping of our elders. We can't appreciate what we have, and thus what we have to give, without that.
|Here we are with Greg as he signs our copy of Stones into Schools. |
(And yes, folks, the key to making the bump in the front look cute is to crop out the bump in the back!)