Happy Birthday to The Bright Light That Is Malala

It’s officially Malala Day! Malala, speak to each of us, individually. Speak to the whole world, collectively. Inspire us to action and infuse us with optimism.

Almost everyone I encounter laments that their determination to stay well-informed proves exhausting, with news reports fueling their mounting anxiety and incredulity. I remind myself daily to read about positive local and global events as a healthy counterbalance. Good things happen. Frequently I turn to news about a Pakistani woman who turns twenty today. Her name is Malala Yousafzai—maybe one fine day hers will be a household name.

Many of you know Malala’s story and, if not, it’s easy to find, just about everywhere—twitter (which she didn’t join until she graduated!), Facebook, the Malala Fund, her speeches at the United Nations and while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. “He Named Me Malala,” a documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim, depicts her enlightened humanity, childlike mischief, and love for her teacher/father Ziauddin. Here’s an excellent summation of pivotal events and accomplishments in the life of the birthday girl. A youthful activist on behalf of girls’ education, shot in the head by the Taliban at age fifteen and still its target, Malala forgives her attackers as she opens schools and travels worldwide on behalf of the right to universal education. “Invest in books instead of bullets,” she declared on her eighteenth birthday at the opening of a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon.

Already a UN Ambassador of Peace, Malala knows beyond a doubt that education is the key to peace. Education for girls combats cyclic poverty as it gives rise to gender equality. Her many online sites offer countless ways to join with her in numerous educational initiatives. Malala demonstrates that it’s possible to chip away at seemingly insurmountable problems. She embodies the empowerment that comes with forgiveness. She breaks entrenched stereotypes as a Muslim feminist. She refutes complacency through personal commitment and action.

And she is one person.

Photo by Simon Davis/DFID licensed under cc-by-2.0

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