What I especially liked about the book is its title: The Power of One. The movie version of the book played up that element a bit more than the book itself does.
I have just finished reading a non-fiction work that illustrates a true meaning of the expression “the power of one.” David Relin’s account of Greg Mortenson’s remarkable effort to build a school in rural Pakistan is the subject of the work Three Cups of Tea. If ever there were an example today of “the power of one” it would be Greg Mortenson. If you have not read Three Cups of Tea, I recommend it—I venture that he may have done more to “win hearts and minds” in the Muslim world than all the U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Simply—Greg Mortenson builds schools in small villages in Pakistan first, and then in Afghanistan.
Did you see the movie Charlie Wilson’s War? The movie ends with Congressman Charlie Wilson, who helped arm Afghans in their struggle against Soviet soldiers, pleading to have U.S. funds sent to Afghanistan and Pakistan to build schools. Had Congressman Wilson’s plea been heard and granted, we might not be facing the seemingly intractable problem of religious radicalization in that part of the world.
The power of one!
There are other stirring examples. Having grown up nearby South Africa, I watched that country for years, convinced that apartheid would only end badly—possibly in a civil war. Of course, we all know it didn’t. It ended bloodlessly, for the most part. Much of the peaceful end to that awful codified separation of white and black people came about because of one man: Nelson Mandela.
I have never met Nelson Mandela, but those who have say they are immediately struck by the moral force of the man. Whether that moral force grew out of his years of imprisonment—he spent 27 years in prison—or out of the righteousness of his position, or even out of an innate sense is hard to say. But it is clear that he has a great of morality that surpassed most of the whites in South Africa who would have seen him, by virtue of being a black man, as their lesser.
The power of one!
One more example. I just got the latest newsletter from Hawk Mountain. This is one of the organizations we proudly support. This year is the 75th anniversary of the Sanctuary at Hawk Mountain—and it is all because of the efforts of one woman that this place exists. In 1934, Rosalie Barrow Edge leased the top of Hawk Mountain to protect raptors from hunters who gathered each fall to shoot them for sport. In so doing, she created “the world’s first refuge for birds of prey” (Hawk Mountain News, Spring 2009, p. 1). September 11-13, 2009 will be the 75th Anniversary observance of Hawk Mountain. Part of the celebration includes the release this summer of a biography by Dyana Furmansky of this remarkable one woman nature activist. Rosalie Edge’s efforts, which began when she was a girl observing birds in Central Park, New York, have helped create a true raptor and other birds treasure in Pennsylvania. Each fall the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary conducts bird migration counts in part of the Appalachian Flyway. The Sanctuary has hundreds of volunteers and many young scientists who train in internship capacities.
All because of the power of one!
(Photo of Rosalie Barrow Edge from http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/heritage/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=443908)