11/08/10 — Books chosen for 2011 reading project

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Books chosen for 2011 reading project

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on November 8, 2010 1:48 PM

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Greg Mortenson's "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time," is one of two books on Afghanistan that will be the focus of the 2011 Wayne County Reads campaign.

Wayne County Reads will kick off its 2011 season with a wine-tasting fundraiser Saturday at Herman Park Center to help raise money for and to generate interest in the 2011 Wayne County Reads project.

Organizers have chosen two books to be the topic of discussion for 2011 Wayne County Reads. And considering Wayne's status as home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the books have special meaning.

"Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time," and "Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan," were written by Greg Mortenson, the son of a missionary and a former military man who, through strange circumstance, eventually dedicated his life to building schools in a region of the world ripped apart by war.

Many residents of Wayne County have family members or friends in Afghanistan. Organizers of the Wayne Reads series hope the reading and public discussion of the books will strengthen community ties by giving residents a common topic to discuss.

Also, the Wayne Reads project will have an added dimension this year. Military families with photographs taken in Afghanistan and the surrounding region are being asked to submit them for a long-term exhibit at the Arts Council of Wayne County. The exhibit will depict what daily life is truly like for the country's inhabitants and for military personnel stationed there.

"A Country, A People," was the brainchild of Sarah Merritt, Arts Council director. She said she started thinking about the photo exhibit after seeing the photos her husband brought back after being stationed in Afghanistan. She decided to expand it and to invite other military members to submit their photos.

Current servicemembers and veterans are asked to submit photos taken while deployed to Afghanistan in recent years. Civilians are also welcome to submit photos. The exhibit is seeking pictures of native Afghans and that country's culture, landscapes and scenery, although military personnel may also be in the photos. The deadline for submitting photos is Nov. 22.

Photos can be e-mailed to Ms. Merritt at sarah@artsinwayne.org or to Senior Airman Makenzie Lang at the 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base at Makenzie.Lang@seymourjohnson.af.mil. For more information, call Mrs. Merritt at 919-736-3300 or Airman Lang at 919-722-0027.

Mortenson says educating the youth of the region is America's best hope for battling the Islamic extremists who feed on the relative ignorance of the majority of the people who live in that part of the world.

His books are the result of an adventure turned sour. After his sister died in 1992, he chose to attempt to climb one of the world's highest mountains in her memory. He failed to ascend K2 and while recuperating from the attempt in a remote Afghan town, he came across children playing in the muddy street with no hope of an education. He promised them, and himself, that he would return one day and build them a school. As of a year ago, Mortenson had established or significantly supported 131 schools, providing an education to more than 58,000 children, including 44,000 girls. In his book, Mortenson especially emphasizes giving girls a chance to receive an education, something Islamic fundamentalists adamantly oppose.

The Wayne Reads campaign officially begins in January when Col. Patrick Doherty, commander of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, will speak at the opening of the photo exhibit. Other events include a presentation on the history and traditions of Islam by a professor from East Carolina University, a panel discussion on the military experience in Afghanistan, a lecture by Wayne native Karl Eikenberry, a former Army General and the United States ambassador to Afghanistan, and a panel discussion on the experiences of women in the U.S. military in Afghanistan and other Islamic countries.

Events will culminate with an Afghan cultural festival, complete with authentic food and music, in late February.

The wine-tasting will feature a silent auction of special vintages. Cost is $35 in advance and $40 at the door. For advance tickets, call HealthHabit at 751-0300 or The Arts Council at 736-3300.