Courageous girl inspires gratitude

The news media is abuzz about Malala Yousafzai, one of the contenders for the Nobel Peace Prize (to be announced tomorrow morning).

I had never heard of her until I saw her earlier this week on The Daily Show. It’s probably a testimony to our times (and perhaps to my self-centeredness) that I get some of my news from the Comedy Channel (but in my defense, I get enough of my news elsewhere that I actually get all of Jon Stewart’s jokes).

Just in case you’re as oblivious as I was, Yousafzai is a 16-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot — in the face — by the Taliban for speaking up about the importance of education for girls. Her memoir, ” I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” came out this week. Sixteen! A memoir! She’s a blogger, too.

“I wanted to speak up for my rights,” she said this week on the BBC. “And also I didn’t want my future to be just sitting in a room and be imprisoned in my four walls and just cooking and giving birth to children. I didn’t want to see my life in that way.

All the talk about Yousafzai got me thinking about my own education, infinitely easier for me to attain. Without school, I might never have learned to read (I love to read!). I would never have experienced the joy of expression in writing (oh, the horror that would be). I wouldn’t be able to add, subtract, multiply and do simply accounting (my husband would have had to find a new CFO for his insurance business). Without that class in basic keyboarding long ago, I might never have been introduced to Microsoft Word, Excel, Quark XPress and QuickBooks, all programs that have opened doors to creativity and ordered thinking.

Like Yousafzai, I had supportive parents. I remember telling my father I wanted to be president one day, and he didn’t scoff at my aspirations (he teased, but he didn’t scoff). I really believed I could be president.

I doubt, however, that I ever would had the guts to advocate for an education facing the point of a gun, and certainly not at age 15. Thank goodness for the women (and men) who made my education possible. Even if she doesn’t get the Peace Prize and despite my late coming to her party, Yousafzai has earned her notoriety. Good for her.


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