What did I think of Greg Mortenson ‘morally’? my son asked me after we watched the scorching 60 Minutes expose on the bestselling author and activist.
My son had taken part in an all-school ‘read’ of Motenson’s Three Cups of Tea (which a couple young wits who are his friends dubbed ‘Three Cups of Me,’ given what they and my son found to be Mortenson’s off-putting self-promotional tone).
The kids were onto something. Sounds like Mortenson may have let fame go to his head. The facts are not all in yet, but of course he is accused of exaggerating key parts of his narrative and of using his charity to pay for promoting his book.
Dean Rader in the San Francisco Chronicle gave a balanced view of the situation, bringing up the unique difficulties of writing memoirs. But surely Mortenson would not be in such hot water now if the publisher had paid for ALL major promotions on a book that is making them big bucks. And didn’t kids collecting ‘Pennies for Peace’ have a right to know some of those pennies may have gone to book promoting? As our commenter ‘AK’ points out, shouldn’t school systems have vetted this charity more fully? Mortenson has done good works. But he has more than his share of writerly egotism.
Whether or not his tale is true, he seems have felt– with all the good he was doing in his noble endeavor to help educate children in Afghanistan and Pakistan– he was entitled to fly on a private jet and chalk up book-publicizing expenses to his charity (which claims in news reports the promoting does benefit their overall cause).
Yes, Mortenson was pushing a worthy cause, as well as building up his own image. But not everyone will cut him a break. In fact, idealistic young readers like my son– who had detected that suspiciously self-serving tone in a book that turned many reviewers to mush– may ultimately be an even harder crowd for Mortenson to face down than the hard-nosed reporters on 60 Minutes. WDYT?
(photos: depauu.edu; uploadexperience.com)