Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, September 20, 2018

Malala Yousafzai: College student and global inspiration

Why Yousafzai should be included on your list of inspiring leaders

Malala Yousafzai: College student and global inspiration

Who inspires you?

For me, the list includes my parents, my tenth grade high school English teacher, John Green and Nellie Bly.

It now includes Malala Yousafzai.

On Sept. 25, 2017, the University named Malala Wonk of the Year. To explain why this is so important, allow me to backtrack. Malala Yousafzai is an activist for girls education. In 2014, she was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The Four others have captured the Wonk of the Year award because they are smart, passionate and engaged in issues with the goal of creating change.

Upon coming to this event, I knew who Malala was. I knew her background and what she stood for, but I did not openly consider her one of my inspirations. But, after seeing her and hearing her speak, it is hard for me not to consider her one of my inspirations.

When President Burwell introduced Malala, she highlighted a trait that Malala possesses that is not often considered in the Wonk of Year decision process: grace. President Burwell could not have more perfectly described her.

From the moment Malala walked on stage, I sensed her aura immediately. She was unfazed by the crowd size and took in the audience's admiration with the humblest of smiles. After accepting her award, Malala did not use the podium, but rather she confidently strode from one side of the stage to the other. She appeared comfortable and natural, not showing a hint of intimidation. Despite being a celebrity, she humanized herself. She clearly has a message she wants to share, but she did not present herself as an icon that should be beloved by all. Rather, she was simply a girl who had something to say.

When she proclaimed phrases like “all girls can speak, all girls can be what they want,” and “young girls should believe in themselves,” they did not sound fabricated. they seemed to be words she actually believed. In addition to her genuine beliefs, she has a natural knack for humor. From referring to herself as the "shortest wonk ever" to insisting that her brothers are persistently annoying, she never acted smug.

Some people glide into the limelight and attach titles such as “activist” to themselves because they desire to be perceived as involved in the issues. Titles mean nothing if there are no actions to support them. Malala does not rely on titles. She relies on advocating for progress and she is only 20 years old.

People should aspire to live like Malala. Do not focus how people will perceive you in response to your actions. Focus more on what your actions are and how they can be beneficial to the world around you.

Present yourself gracefully. It’s fine to be proud of all you have accomplished, but remain humble. Others will be more amazed by your accomplishments if you are not bragging about all you have done. There is always more to do.

Finally, if you do something of value and become a global inspiration, remember your roots. You’re still a human being. It’s important to step away from the podium sometimes and speak to your audience like they are normal people, not just your fans.

Today’s world is messy. Pessimism can seep into our minds leaving us to wonder, “what actually can we do?” But Malala does not wonder, she does. The world is lucky to have people like her. And if that is not inspiring, I am not sure what is.

smirah@theeagleonline.com


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