Friday, April 10, 2009

The Power of One

Several years ago, I read Bryce Courtenay’s novel The Power of One. I was drawn to the book, and enjoyed it a fair bit, for its descriptions of growing up in southern Africa. I can’t say that I think the book is great literature, but it was an enjoyable read at the time.

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!


Beth said...

I just finished The Power of One and enjoyed it and I've probably bought and given away 12 copies of Three Cups of Tea over the last few years. We are all capable of great things--both of those books teach that. We need to learn from those the people that fall into our lives--the good and the bad--and we need to tap into our own inner strength to accomplish our goals.

NCmountainwoman said...

Great post. We all need to believe (and see examples) in just what one person can do. I read "Three Cups of Tea" when it first came out and have read it again twice. What a wonderful person and what a wonderful story.

Ruth said...

An inspiring post! I have read Three Cups of Tea and really enjoyed it. (I will read any book with Tea in the title)

Dog_geek said...

Wow, I read The Power of One, but it seems like ages ago... I could barely remember it. I'll have to check out "Three Cups of Tea" - it sounds like a potential gift for my mother, who lived in Pakistan for a while and loved it there.

Anvilcloud said...

Without mentioning it, this post is very appropriate considering what weekend it is.

Jayne said...

I so admire people like Greg Mortenson who see a need and then truly decide to DO something about it. They profiled him a few weeks back on ABC News and I was so inspired by what he has accomplished. The power of one indeed. One person can change so much for the better.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

It's Resurrection Day, KGMom! May you and those you love continue to walk in newness of life.

JeanMac said...

Powerful people create ambition in others. Good post, Donna.

Rhonda said...

I read "The Power of One" and enjoyed it. I'll have to check out "Three Cups of Tea"...adding it to my already overburdened "To Read" list.