A simplistic synopsis of “Three Cups of Tea” would briefly describe an American by the name of Greg Mortenson, who experiences set-backs in his life like everyone else. What makes him different is how he manages to turn them into positive experiences and overcomes them. Ultimately, through his trials and tribulations he built schools for children in northern Pakistan.

Several notable themes were blaring throughout the book:

1. The significance of education.

He learns the importance and influence of a balanced education, especially for young girls because they have a tendency to stay within the region they learn in and share their education. As for the young boys, his schools provide an alternative educational experience over the traditional and extremist education provided by Wahhabi madrassas. The lesson is simple, education and exposure to diversity are the greatest means to eradicate ignorance.

2. The old Addage: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Mortenson tried to teach “Westerners” ideology and methodology in the schools. This method failed. It was not until he learned and understood the culture he constructed the schools in that allowed for him to make the appropriate adjustments in the curriculum. This experience confirms that unless one knows who one is talking to, how is one to know how to talk?

3. Inspiration.

Without a doubt this story is inspiring. The reader is inundated  with Mortenson’s perseverance  and ability to never give up. Most importantly, the messages to never give up, face each obstacle as a new opportunity and view point runs rampant in this story. Mortenson’s accomplishments are commendable, admirable and exemplifying.

Yet, this story is frustrating and representative of why America is no longer positively received throughout the world and is self-destructing. For example, Mortenson was dedicated to improve the “home” and educational experiences of individuals halfway around the world but the education system and living conditions are very neglected here at his own “home.” The ripple effect of poor education and opportunities are well known to have negative affects on families, crime and the standard of living. Mortenson believes that terrorism flourishes due to poverty, the lack of opportunity and narrow and conservative education. If Americans want to prevent the continuous serge in domestic terrorism, individuals like Mortenson should exercise his belief in his own country. I am of the very strong opinion that if you can not take care of your own, why do you think you can take care of someone else?

America spends trillions of dollars attempting to raise the standard of living in countries she deems oppressed, poor and undemocratic. America does this like a micromanaging “mother” who is convinced she knows what is best for the “child” regardless of what the “child” believes is best for them. The aftereffect of this “busy-body” behavior is resentment, distrust and distain for “her” ways.  This becomes the breeding ground for anti-American sentiment and support spent elsewhere perpetuates oppression and socioeconomic disparity throughout her own land.

This country provides its citizens with a substandard level of education yet, it is a well known fact that education cures ignorance. Ignorance is the foundation of hate, which manifests into hate crimes, discrimination and violence. If America truly wants to make a difference and positively influence the world, she should lead by example. Educate Americans by exposing them to different cultures and ways of life. Teach them that “their way” is not the only “way” and it is not accepted by everyone- Mother doesn’t always know what’s best!

Greg Mortenson accomplished a wonderful feat by providing schools in northern Pakistan, but change starts at home. Change requires a 2-way street and Three Cups of Tea at home.