So rescuing horses, running a barn, teaching lessons and fundraising are all time-consuming and hard work. But wearing these hats also has some perks. Last night was one of those amazing perks.

We were invited by a dear friend to attend the Celebrity Speaker Series at DeAnza College. The speaker for the evening was Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones to Schools. He co-founder and Executive Director of nonprofit Central Asia Institute

Greg is not a polished speaker. He’s gone on record time and again to make it clear that he’s not comfortable drawing attention to himself. But his intelligence and his sincerity come through so clearly and you find yourself loving him even more for his nervous tone and fidgeting.

If you are one of the few people in America that have yet to read Three Cups of Tea, just do it. Even if you have no interest in education, in the complicated social structure and landscape of Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you don’t care at all about why it’s important to empower communities and to focus on educating girls in order to create lasting change, it’s still a great adventure story.

But the title of this blog post is “Inspired” so let me cut to the chase and tell you what got my creative juices flowing on this cold and drizzly November day:

First, Greg’s organization is not about rolling into a community and building a school. The communities must MATCH the funds donated with land grants, labor and resources. That means that the community is EMPOWERED to educate their children. What an idea! As opposed to marching into a town and telling them what democracy is going to do for them. It’s simple human nature to value what you have put some equity into.

Morning Traffic At Square Peg Ranch

Maybe it’s a giant leap to take, but I feel the same way about our move to our new facility and why we just don’t hire a stall cleaner. When the families of students help us to build and fix and organize and paint and develop our barns and when the kids themselves help us to clean and feed the horses, they become invested in the health of the animals and in the health of the organization. The lessons we teach when we all rush around digging trenches before a rainstorm are more lasting when the students and their families are doing real and doing necessary work as a community.

There were a ton of quotable moments in his talk. One stood out in particular

“We need to live in hope. We cannot live in fear. Fighting terrorism is based on fear, promoting peace is based in hope. And the real enemy we face is ignorance.”

Okay, so maybe in America, the term “hope” has been kicked around a bit. But think of the hope that Mr. Mortenson speaks of when he talks about “promoting peace, one heart and mind at a time.” Now that’s a recipe for change!

Turning "I wish" into "I can."

Again, the giant leap of the work we do at Square Pegs. The clear reality is that our organization cannot house all of the injured racehorses and unwanted saddle horses that come banging on our door. But if we can teach the next generation to value each life as sacred, to teach them to care and take responsibility and to acknowledge that each of us has aspects that make us different, but that is what makes us special. Maybe then we are creating lasting change.

Education is power. Ignorance is the real enemy we face. Thank you Greg Mortenson; I am truly inspired.

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