The speaker at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing graduation this month was Greg Mortenson, coauthor of "Three Cups of Tea" and author of "Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
A nurse and former mountain climber, Mortenson has devoted himself to building schools and promoting literacy in remote corners of central Asia. Following are excerpts of his May 17 speech.
Azize [Hussain] was the first girl to graduate from high school in an area of over 4,000 people [on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border]. . . . When Azize went to elementary school, the boys threw stones at her because they said girls can't go to school. . . . And Azize graduated from high school, and in 1998 she decided to go to maternal health care training to learn how to deliver babies and do pre- and postnatal care. . . .
In her valley, before she started working there, there was no medicine, no doctor, no clinic, no ambulance, no public health, no insurance, no nothing. Every year five to 20 women died in childbirth. . . . Since she's come back now, in the last decade, her pay is $1.50 per day. Not one single woman has died in childbirth because of a brave young woman named Azize. . . .
It's such an honor to be a nurse because I've been able to be with children when they're born. I've been able to be with many people when they die. Nurses, you have the ability to give people death with dignity. With medicine, we try to keep people going. We do everything we can do to help them along but nurses . . . we have the great gift of compassion and to help people also with the transition when people die. . . .