You couldn't squeeze more people into TCU's Ed Landreth Auditorium than were there Monday night for Three Cups of Tea.
More precisely, for a lecture by the author of that multi-year-best-selling book, Greg Mortenson.
It's not surprising that so many people showed up. According to Mortenson's nonprofit Central Asia Institute, he gave similarly sold-out lectures this week at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Washington State University and private Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, Wash. He's not scheduled anywhere today, but next week is pretty well taken, as are many dates for the rest of the year.
You could say his book has caught on. There's a hint as to why in the subtitle: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time.
Peace through education, some people call it. It's a refreshing concept in today's world. Apparently a lot of people thirst for it -- reports say that something around 4 million copies of the book have been sold in 41 countries.
Mortenson, 53, has built or been a leading force in building 171 schools in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1996. Much of the money for his work comes from schoolchildren in the U.S. donating one penny at a time through the Pennies for Peace program.
How does a pale-skinned Westerner like him avoid being killed by the Taliban? Through an all-too-unique approach: He has taken great pains to learn the culture of the area. He goes where he is invited, where respected elders and other local residents want his help in building schools -- want it badly enough, in fact, to donate their own labor to the cause.
One of the reasons Three Cups of Tea has sold so many copies is that so many small-group book clubs have chosen it for reading and discussion. And fortunately, the wives of some of the nation's top military commanders have told their husbands, "You know, you really should read this."
The New York Times has reported that among those wives are Deborah Mullen (Mrs. to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and Holly Petraeus (married to Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan). Now the book is required reading for all of the top military brass in that war zone.
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