Jerene Mortenson makes 50 to 65 speeches a year to support the causes founded by her son, “Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson.
And she was supposed to come to Willmar May 12 for the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, but now Mayor Frank Yanish has canceled her appearance and brought in three other speakers for the event.
The mayor blamed the news contained in the recent “60 Minutes” episode that questioned Greg Mortenson’s claims about his schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and his fundraising methods for the Central Asia Institute.
“In light of the controversy surrounding the son of our scheduled speaker for the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, I am making a change toward a more local focus and the issues facing us in Willmar and the surrounding area,’’ Yanish told the Willmar’s West Central Tribune.
Jerene Mortenson’s breakfast topic at the breakfast was scheduled to be: “The Fourth Cup of Tea: Empowering children in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Here in the United States.’’
In Mortenson’s book, he describes how children in River Falls, Wis. — where his mother was principal — listened to his stories about the suffering of students in Pakistan and then gathered 62,340 pennies to help him build his first school there. His mother then founded the Pennies for Peace organization to raise money for her son’s work.
Yanish has replaced Jeren Mortenson at the Willmar breakfast with speakers Bob Poe, director of Youth for Christ in Willmar; Dr. Rick Lee, chief executive officer of Woodland Centers in Willmar; and Pastor Pablo Cruz.