Education is empowering. That was the message imparted today by Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame. He was here speaking as the Frederick Reads author of 2011. I heard him speak this morning at his Frederick Community College engagement.
It has been some time since I read Three Cups, so many of the details were fuzzy to me. But I do recall the book painting the picture of Mortenson as a large but unassuming character, driven but not pushy, focused but not single-minded. He lived up to that image in person today. He has accomplished great things but with an air of humility credits the people he has helped and those around him for the success of his vision.
He has committed his life over the past many years to establishing schools in Afganistan and Pakistan. While there are complex issues surrounding those geographical, religious and political areas, the underlying truth is that education does empower those needing empowerment, controversial issues aside.
Mortenson started off his talk with a call to those in the audience who in their family are a first-generation high school or college graduate. Several people stood up. Mortenson and the rest of us through applause congratulated those standing on their achievements. Mortenson commented on the difficulty to overcome obstacles for those standing to get where they are without family role models.
I don't know how hard that is and I won't pretend to. I am a third-generation (or possibly fourth-) college graduate. It was engrained in me from birth that I was going to college. It was a given, not optional. But don't misunderstand, I am not a silver-spoon girl. My parents did not have all the money to send me to college. They contributed what they could. But I, and my three brothers before me, made it through college with a mix of scholarships, loans, minimum wage pay and the kindness of strangers and friends.
The most important thing my parents did was to place value on education. I thank them for that. Some aren't so lucky. Some don't have the luxury of placing value on education; they are concerned about things like feeding their families. Things many of us really don't know about. Really.
Mortenson's work focuses on Central Asia. I am thankful there are people like Mortenson in the world who can wrap their heads around issues like he does. I must honestly say I can't get my head around issues that far from home right now. My world is here. And I am concerned about making sure that my kids continue our generational streak of college graduation. And like it wasn't for me, college won't be optional for them. But not because my husband and I say so. It will be because just graduating high school and college won't be enough when their time comes. Heck, it isn't enough now to guarantee a secure future. My kids will likely need to be first generation PhDs and still that's a gamble with security.
But who's gonna pay for all that? Have you checked a college tuition calculator lately? Shocking. So while education is empowering another truth exists: Education is expensive.