Hero #2 – Malala Yousafzai

In October of 2012, a gunman sent by the Taliban–that fun-loving bunch of crazy kids that sheltered Osama Bin Laden so he could share his brand of joy with the world– stepped onto a school bus in Pakistan and shot a fifteen-year-old girl in the head.

It wasn’t an accident, and it wasn’t random. It was an assassination attempt. They were trying to shut her up.

Her crime? What had she done, what had she said to earn a death sentence from the Taliban? She advocated for girls’ education.

Most of us, I think, would have taken the hint. If we had survived, we would have shut up.

Not Malala.

Last July 12–her sixteenth birthday–Malala stood before the United Nations General Assembly to advocate universal education and women’s rights. I suppose she could have chosen a more public venue, but it’s hard to imagine what it might have been.

She didn’t rage against those who oppressed her. She didn’t flip the bird at the TV cameras and tell them to find a hitman who can shoot straight. She didn’t even wish harm to those who had harmed her.

She calmly told the world that girls, and all children, have a right to education. She calmly refused to shut up.

And in so doing, in surviving to spread her message beyond her native Pakistan, in refusing to play their game, she did more damage to the Taliban than a SEAL Team can do in a year. Because she didn’t attack them–she simply put them on notice that they are irrelevant.

In 2013, she became the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She didn’t win, but the nomination speaks to her character and courage.

If you haven’t watched this girl speak, you should. Even from a brief video, you can tell she is a force of nature–nothing short of death will stop her.

We can expect amazing things from this young woman.

And for those who persist in the belief that Islam is universally a religion of violence–can you really watch this young woman speak and continue to believe that?

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.