What we can learn from 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s speech at the UN

July 15, 2013

A teenager who wouldn’t  let a bullet from the Taliban silence her voice for girls’ education
“Out of the silence came thousands of voices” said 16-year-old  Malala Yousafzai as she commented on the attempt of the Taliban to silence her voice with a bullet to her head just nine months earlier. Her passion had ignited a worldwide movement, and now she was talking about it before a specially convened youth assembly at the headquarters of the United Nations.  Reading or listening to her speech, we can learn so much from her.  We can learn to say “thank you to God for whom we all are equal. “ We can draw strength and courage from her willingness to use her young voice “so that those without a voice can be heard” in the fight for the right to “live in peace,”  “to be treated with dignity,” to experience “equality of opportunity,” and” to be educated.”   We can learn from her resilience. “The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions,” she says, “but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.” We can learn from her rejection of hatred and revenge (“I do not even hate the Talib who shot me,” she says)—and from her strong conviction that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” “The extremists are afraid of books and pens,” she declares. “The power or of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. . . .That is why they are blasting schools every day. Because they were and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality we will bring into our society.”  We can also learn from Malala’s fearlessness in pointing out distorted religious views that are misused to prevent equality for girls and women. “They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school,” she says.  And she issues a call for peace, because “peace is necessary for education. . . . terrorism, wars, and conflicts stop children to go to their schools.”  There is even more we can learn from this dedicated  teenager.  Take some time to watch and listen to her passionate speech in full (a 17-minute video)—or to a short video excerpt (under 3 minutes) embedded in the BBC report that is our main link above.  You can also read her full speech here.  You’ll be inspired.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992).

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