Three Cups of Tea is required reading for US senior military commanders, for officers in the Norwegian War College, Forsvarsnett, for US Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan, Pentagon officers in counter-insurgency training, and Canadian Defense Ministry members. The book has been read by General David Petraeus—centcom Commander, Admiral Mike Mullen—Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, and … several other US military commanders who advocate for building relationships as a part of an overall strategic plan for peace. Mortenson has addressed the National Defense Senior Leadership Conference at the Pentagon, visited over two dozen military bases, norad, and been to the Air Force, Naval and West Point Academies.
Mr. Mortenson — who for a time lived out of his car in Berkeley, Calif. — has also spoken at dozens of military bases, seen his book go on required reading lists for senior American military commanders and had lunch with Gen. David H. Petraeus, General McChrystal’s replacement. Mr. Mortenson, 52, thinks there is no military solution in Afghanistan — he says the education of girls is the real long-term fix — so he has been startled by the Defense Department’s embrace
Greg Mortenson, the former head of a non-profit organisation in the US which has built hundreds of schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, will repay more than $1m to the charity, according to a settlement agreement. He was accused last year (2011) of embezzling money from the charity, and of fabricating passages in the book, which recounts his inspiration for founding the charity.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock on April 5, 2012 announced a settlement agreement with Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute, concluding a yearlong investigation into allegations of mismanagement of assets by Mortenson and the charity. Based on the results of the investigation, the Attorney General has concluded that CAI’s board of directors failed to fulfill some of their responsibilities as board members of a nonprofit charity. Further, Mortenson failed to fulfill some of his responsibilities as executive director and as an officer and director of the organization.
On the legal front, CAI is no longer defending itself from a class action lawsuit alleging fraudulent fundraising. It is, however, still the focus of an investigation by the Montana Attorney General’s office into its financial practices. As previously reported in NPQ, the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) has criticized CAI for a “lack of separation between the organization’s finances and [Executive Director] Greg Mortenson’s personal financial interests.”
Educators and education organizations are weighing whether to cut off support for the Pennies for Peace program of the Central Asia Institute after allegations surfaced that Greg Mortenson, the co-author of the best-selling nonfiction book, Three Cups of Tea , mismanaged money collected by thousands of schoolchildren.
The news program “60 Minutes” broadcast allegations last week that Mr. Mortenson, the executive director of the Central Asia Institute , which runs Pennies for Peace , fabricated two major stories about himself in his book, one of which has been a jumping-off point for thousands of schoolchildren to collect money to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The carcass of Greg Mortenson's memoir Three Cups of Tea is being picked over in public as the Pakistani tribesmen he claims kidnapped him prepare to sue him and his publisher, Viking, "carefully review[s] the materials with the author".
Greg Mortenson, using $623 in pennies donated from American school children and $2000 obtained by selling personal possessions, began a school building program in northern Pakistan aimed at educating formerly illiterate children, especially young women (previously forbidden from receiving an education). To merit a school, a village was required to donate land, help build the school, and commit to increase the number of young women enrolled by 10 percent each year.
Underlying Mortenson’s premise is the inexorable necessity for building solid relationships with the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the quintessence of which is characterized in the centuries-old ritual of drinking tea. Reduced to the simplest common denominator, the repeated sharing of a cup of tea equates to understanding, adapting to, and following the customs incumbent therein in this cultural and environmental context. The “tea ceremony” has long prevailed in many cultures, but herein the sharing of tea has gone from being a cognitive, conceptual metaphor within Afghanistan and Pakistan to part of the American political vernacular in the process of nation-building.
For each of the past three years (2008, 2009, 2010) he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. President Obama donated $100,000 of the award money from his own Nobel Peace Prize, which he received in 2009, to the Central Asia Institute (CAI) - the charity Mortenson launched fifteen years ago to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Visiting classrooms wherever he goes, Mortenson has persuaded 2,800 American schools to become fundraising partners; last year, schoolkids collecting "Pennies for Peace" boosted CAI revenues by $2.5 million.