It’s perfect that a young woman from Olympia High School triggered the avalanche of momentum that is bringing Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greg Mortenson and his avocations for girls’ education to our city.
A year ago, OHS junior Kaycee Keegan was serving as the co-president of the school’s Rotary Interact Club and helping to plan a potluck dinner to raise funds for their community service projects. But Interact Club adviser Matt Grant, the principal of OHS, urged the club to think bigger. He suggested that because most students in the higher grades had already read Mortenson’s first novel “Three Cups of Tea,” that they contact him.
Keegan took the challenge on as her senior project, despite overwhelming odds against getting such a popular figure here. Mortenson gets more than 2,200 speaking requests every year, and he charges a $25,000 fee.
But Kaycee is a persistent student, says her mother, Denise, a member of the Olympia Downtown Rotary Club. Now, as a senior, Kaycee persuaded most of the area’s Rotary clubs to donate money and commit to bringing Mortenson to Olympia.
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She raised enough money from Rotary, three Olympia banks and Dr. Kathryne Wagner at the Gastroenterology Associates to pay the deposit and guarantee Mortenson’s attendance. Since then, the project has taken off.
Mortenson comes to town Thursday. He’ll speak at the school, have lunch with the area Rotary clubs, and personally receive funds for his Central Asia Institute raised by Thurston school children through their “Pennies for Peace” program.
The kids will rally at the Capitol steps in midafternoon, where Centennial Elementary music teacher Jana Gedde’s students will perform a song she wrote for the occasion. You can watch them perform it already on YouTube.
The main event is the author’s public speech at St. Martin University’s Marcus Pavilion in Lacey on Thursday evening.
Tickets are still available, but they have to be purchased online, not at the door.
Oh, in case you didn’t know, Mortenson is the mountain climber who wandered into a Pakistani village after a failed 1993 expedition and discovered his life’s purpose: to build schools in Central Asia, especially to educate young women in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Since that day, he’s raised the funds to build 131 permanent schools and 60 more temporary ones in refugee camps.
He’s in a race with the Taliban: the gang of thugs who fear an educated population won’t tolerate their extortion and other crimes. The Taliban has bombed or destroyed almost 2,000 schools in the two countries just since 2007.
Mortenson has answered with 137 women’s literacy centers. One of the female graduates of his schools became the first female attorney in Kashmir; another is about to become the first female physician in Bal Tristan.
Mortenson believes the solution to what ails Central Asia lies in education and land ownership, not military actions.
The event in our city is helping him continue this work.
Tomorrow is the last day to apply for the Olympia City Council seat left vacant by Joe Hyer’s departure. Mayor Doug Mah and new council member Stephen Buxbaum told The Olympian editorial board recently that they expect to find agreement on an appointment among the fractious council. We’ll see. ... Competing for the Doofus Crook of the Week award is a Yelm teenager who allegedly sold marijuana right in front of Police Chief Todd Stancil. According to the Nisqually Valley News, the chief was sitting in his car in the City Hall parking lot when he witnessed the transaction. Two other underage teens were also arrested. ... Are you biking to work? Intercity Transit’s Bicycle Commuter Contest pedals on this entire month. More than 1,600 people took the challenge last year and logged more than 100,000 miles.
George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.