The 2010 American Peace Award is awarded to Greg Mortenson.
Greg Mortenson is the co-founder of nonprofit Central Asia Institute, founder of Pennies For Peace, and co-author of New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea which has sold 3.6 million copies, been published in 41 countries, and a New York Times bestseller for over three years since its 2007 release, and Time Magazine Asia Book of The Year.
Mortenson’s new book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan, was released by Viking on December 1st, 2009 and debuted as #2 on the New York Times bestseller list.
As of 2010, Mortenson has established over 131 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan nd Afghanistan, which provide education to over 58,000 children, including 48,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before.
In 2009, Mortenson received Pakistan’s highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (“Star of Pakistan”) for his humanitarian effort to promote girls education in rural areas for fifteen years.
Several bi-partisan U.S. Congressional representatives have nominated Mortenson twice for the
Mortenson was born in 1957, and grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (1958 to 1973). His father, Dempsey, founded Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) a hospital, and mother, Jerene, founded the International School Moshi.
He served in the U.S. Army in Germany (1977-1979), where he received the ArmyCommendation Medal, and later graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983.
In July 1992, Mortenson’s sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a lifelong struggle with epilepsy on the eve of a trip to visit Dysersville, Iowa, where the baseball movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, was filmed in a cornfield.
To honor his sister’s memory, in 1993, Mortenson climbed Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram range.
While recovering from the climb in a village called Korphe, Mortenson met a group of children sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand, and made a promise to help them build a school.
From that rash promise, grew a humanitarian campaign, in which Mortenson has dedicated his life to promote education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
His work has not been without difficulty. In 1996, he survived an eight day armed kidnapping by the Taliban in Pakistan’ Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas, escaped a 2003 firefight with feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck going to a leather-tanning factory. He has overcome two fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations, and also received threats from fellow Americans after 9/11, for helping Muslim children with education.
Mortenson is a living hero to rural communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military and militia commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs from his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls.
He is one of few foreigners who has worked for sixteen years (over 74 months in the field) in rural villages where few foreigners go, and considered the ‘front lines’ of the ‘war on terror’ TV newscaster, Tom Brokaw, calls Mortenson, “one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, who is really changing the world”.
Congresswoman Mary Bono (Rep – Cali.) says, "I've learned more from Greg Mortenson about the root causes of terrorism than I did during all our briefings on Capitol Hill. He is a true hero, who exemplifies the true ideals of the American spirit.”
In addition to his advocacy for female literacy and education, Mortenson is an advocate for the global abolishment of the manufacture and usage of land-mines, and actively campaigns for the U.S. to join the 158 countries that have already signed an anti-land mine pact.
While not overseas half the year, Mortenson, 52, lives in Montana with his wife, Dr. Tara Bishop, a clinical psychologist, and two young children.
Greg Mortenson is the recipient of 13 honorary doctorates and 45 awards.