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Letters About Literature National Winners 2009

Honorable Mentions, Level 2: Eliza Dach

Dear Mr. Greg Mortenson,

Earlier I spoke with my 8th grade English teacher about expanding my horizons to nonfiction books. When I told my mom about our conversation, she immediately pulled out your book. She said it would allow me to explore nonfiction books and that it has been on the bestseller list for 94 weeks. That was good enough for me—even I knew that 94 weeks is a long time to be on the bestseller list. So, I opened Three Cups of Tea for the first time. The first time I opened it, I was a stranger. The second time I opened it, I was a friend. The third time I opened it, I was hooked.

Three Cups of Tea taught me to look at a problem from the victim’s point of view and from the prejudiced person’s view. It illustrated all the prejudices that Americans have but are too deep into them to see. Prejudices are ingrained into our culture, but we are too used to them to notice. Your book allowed me to see these prejudices and caused me to question many things I thought were fact. Why is the government convinced that violence is the only way to end terrorism? Have we already forgotten the wisdom of Martin Luther King Junior when he said that the “means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek?” If we want to establish ties with foreign countries, our means need to change. “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” He said those words in an attempt to fight prejudice towards people of color. Now we are prejudiced towards Muslims. It is another war against prejudice, it just happens to be across an ocean. Don’t those words still apply? Never again will I take acceptance for granted.

At Georgetown Day School you said that the number of girls being educated in Pakistan and Afghanistan has risen to eight times the original number over the last several years. That in itself is amazing, but then you said something that really made me think: no one here in America has heard about this. Why have we heard about all the hardships these children are going through, and not about the successes? Then I realized, I had not heard about the terrible conditions these children face until I read Three Cups of Tea. Why haven’t I heard about the education solution to terrorism before? And more importantly, why haven’t I heard that we needed an education solution? I never knew that children have to kneel on the freezing ground and write with sticks in the dirt to receive education. I never knew that one man could do anything about it.

Through my school I learned about many great causes and wanted to help in any way possible. However, I never did anything. I doubted my ability as a single person to affect anything happening around me. Three Cups of Tea taught me that one person can make a huge difference. You taught me that one of the catchphrases of life, turn that frown upside down, really has a lot of meaning. During your talk at GDS you shared with us a Persian proverb: When it is dark, you can see the stars. Mr. Mortenson, you made that come alive for me and for that I can never thank you enough.


Eliza Dach