Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Malala Yousafzai accepts Wonk of the Year award

Activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner comes to AU

Malala Yousafzai accepts Wonk of the Year award

The Kennedy Political Union, Women’s Initiative and Muslim Student Association awarded Wonk of the Year to Malala Yousafzai at Bender Arena on Sept. 25.

Yousafzai, a world-renowned twenty-year-old who campaigns for girls education, thanked the packed arena for “their support and such a warm welcome.”

Addressing the crowd, Yousafzai explained that in her native Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan, women are made to be wives and mothers and are allowed very little freedom, including the right to education.

“When my education was banned, I would not be able to become a doctor, to become a teacher, to be myself,” Yousafzai said.

In October 2012, Yousafzai was shot on her way home from school by Taliban gunmen who objected to her activism. She was released from hospital in the U.K. on Feb. 8, 2013 after surviving a fractured skull.

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner continued her activism all over the world, meeting with leaders from Norway to Afghanistan to urge leaders to focus on educating every child.

After speaking directly to the roughly 2,300 in attendance as estimated by KPU, Yousafzai sat down with AU president Sylvia Burwell who asked questions posed by students.

Burwell first asked asked the young activist what Yousafzai’s goals are for the next five years.

“I’m really grateful that I’ve been given this great opportunity to study in Oxford,” Yousafzai said. “I will be studying [sic] politics and economics.”

When an audience member asked which of the many stories of young women Yousafzai has met resonated with her the most, she shared a story of a young girl in Iraq who had to flee Islamic State. Despite her circumstances, the young girl, who lives in a shelter, walks two miles a day to go to school and hopes to be a journalist when she grows up.

Muslim people need to unite, Yousafzai said.

“Kindness, tolerance, forgiveness, this is the religion that I believe in,” Yousafzai said. She also told Muslims to speak out against those who engage in hate and violence in the name of Islam.

She urged people to speak to their Muslim neighbors to try to quell hatred towards Islam. Terrorists, she says, haven’t studied the Koran.

“’Islam’ literally means peace,” Yousafzai said.

For young girls, Yousafzai’s biggest advice was for them to believe in themselves. If young girls believe in themselves, they can be educated and change the world.

Yousafzai is the fifth recipient of this award, following former Democratic National Chairwoman Donna Brazile and former First Lady Laura Bush.

The hype for the event itself was immense, with tickets quickly selling out and queues for the even stretching from Kogod to the Bender parking garage. Here's what students standing in line had to say.

“The opportunity to see this is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Jonathan Dickerman, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs. “I think as a student at the fourth most politically active school, you just kind of have to embrace it,” Dickerman said.

Sydney Wishnow, a freshman in the School of Communication, got the very first spot in line. She arrived at 4:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. event.

“She’s made groundbreaking changes for women and the fact that she’s overcome what she has and won a Nobel Peace Prize was incredible.”

jbergman@theeagleonline.com


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