In case you missed hearing the amazing story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who survived being gunned down by the Taliban for her outspoken support of girls’ education, you should catch up here. Today is her 16th birthday. She’s not throwing a big party–although if anyone deserves to have a party, it’s her. Instead, she gave a speech today at the United Nations. Okay, we have to admit–that is WAY cooler than a party!
I don’t have very many people I consider heroes, but Malala Yousafzai is definitely one of them. She is only a few months older than my oldest daughter, and when I heard her story and found out she had been shot–those weeks while the world waited to learn if she would live and if she would recover–it hit me hard. I know what it’s like to love and parent a 14 year old, and I could only imagine how proud and yet how heartbroken and scared Malala’s parents must have been.
And yet, she did recover, and the experience has given her a voice throughout the world. She is a total badass–in the very best way. Without covering her face, she boldly speaks out for peace, for standing up for your rights and the rights of others, but also for loving her enemies:
Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone…Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group.
I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists, especially the Taliban.
I don’t even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him…This is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother…This is what my soul is telling me. Be peaceful and love everyone.
This right here. That is true beauty. That is courage and grace and astounding strength. That is how this broken world can be put back together. I want to be more like Malala. I want my daughters to find their own inner strength and beauty and grace, like she did. I want that for all of us–and you, too.
Happy sweet 16, dear Malala. I hope you see many more birthdays and live long enough to see your dream of education for all girls become a reality. Thank you for being a role model for all of us.