When it is said that young people are the ones who change the world, many take that as an ideal, something that has happened in the past on occasion, but a concept that has somewhat escaped our current state of affairs.
However, from the hills of Pakistan, a girl named Malala Yousafzai is marking her territory as a true beacon of hope for girls and women everywhere.
As a 15-year-old activist in Pakistan, Malala was tragically shot in the head by the Taliban, a fundamentalist, oppressive and violent group, who disliked her promotion of the education of girls. Her fight not just to live, but to live free from fear, has truly made an impact on the world. It is not just her relentless fight to help provide educational opportunities to girls and women that make this now 16-year-old a remarkable human being.
On October 11, 2013, Malala met with President Barack Obama at the White House. Personally speaking, I would be honored and shocked to be given the amazing opportunity to meet with any sitting president. However, speaking with our nation’s first African-American President would probably leave me nearly speechless. Malala is not one to be silenced, though. She not only spoke with the President, but she actually challenged the President over his drone policy, which targets specific terrorists or other threatening persons, by using unmanned aerial vehicles known as drones.
An article by Lesley Clark from the McClatchy Newspapers, states exactly what Malala said in her meeting with the President:
I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.
There are a couple of things remarkable about this verbal critique. First, this young girl is intelligent and aware enough to know about President Obama’s drone policy in the first place. Secondly, she is analytically astute enough to have established an opinion on this subject. Lastly, and perhaps most impressively, Malala was not just complacent with merely meeting the President.
She does not take pride in being typical. She cares about her country and decreasing the continuing violence that terrorists like the Taliban have continued to perpetrate. What is markedly clear in her observations is that she steadfastly believes in using the tool of education to curb terrorism instead of more violence. She understands that one must look at the root causes of terrorism; to focus on preventative measures instead of only reactionary ones.
Growing up in the war-stricken country of Pakistan, Malala seems to have a grasp on what can be used to recruit these would-be terrorists. The violence that many see as a result of the United States’ policies can be shown, to vulnerable prospects, as a motivating factor for them to join these organizations and groups. Malala speaks for many who want to see investments made in educating the people of these developing regions, mostly girls who often lack the opportunities that boys have.
President Obama is the most powerful person in the world, but Malala would not keep quiet. Her passion for her country, her people, and the advancing of equality and peace, are more important to this young girl than passively just meeting with the President and not making her objections known. This could have frightened most of us; the very thought of standing up to the President, as if we matter. But Malala does matter. The self-worth and confidence that she already possesses is truly remarkable.
Malala probably understands that a hateful bullet left her once unconscious and was close to silencing her permanently. Because of this, she will take every opportunity thrown her way to guarantee that she is never silenced again.
Hear from the young activist herself in this recent interview on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart:
About Liberal America Author, Autumn Alston:
I was born on January 13, 1990. I was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. I moved up north and attended the University of CT from 2008 to 2012. I currently also work at a law firm in Uptown Charlotte and have been helping with this organization entitled the National Independent Voter Coalition. My interests include: Politics (obviously), Basketball (playing and watching) and watching almost any sport, movies, reading, the law, human rights, entertainment, mostly Angelina Jolie and Beyonce. I am fun, caring, passionate, intelligent, and unique!