The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 13, 2013

Our View: Malala inspires the world

— In news reports that reverberate around the world, she is called a "teen-age activist." No doubt, Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai never would have dreamed of such fame four years ago when she began writing an anonymous diary describing the brutality of the Taliban.

Then, on Oct. 9, 2012, the 15-year-old Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for advocating girls' education.

Last week, from a Great Britain hospital in her first interview since the attack, a recovering yet unbowed Malala, said, "I am ready to sacrifice myself, again. I want every girl, every child, to be educated. And that in our whole country for there to be peace. And for peace, I will sacrifice myself."

How many of us would make the same statement having been in Malala's shoes -- having undergone major reconstructive surgery? If she returns to her home in Swat, the Taliban have vowed to attack her again. It is unclear how long she will stay with her father in Great Britain, but regardless, a charitable fund has been started in her name that she hopes to use to advocate children's education around the world.

The world listens to Malala's voice. The Taliban savagely resumes its efforts to punish those who would dare believe that education should be for all children, and it even threatens Pakistani media personalities who report sympathetically about Malala Yousafzai. But thanks to the 15-year-old's courageous story, her cause spreads.

She is just one girl -- a teenager with a scarred face -- yet her campaign could not be more compelling if it had been dreamed up by a major human rights organization and backed up by a high-priced public relations firm.

Here again we see that personal examples of courage and conviction by ordinary people around the world are capable of inspiring other people to band together for great causes.

Change-agents such as Malala form a link to other great, yet otherwise ordinary people who stepped out of themselves to shine light into the darkness. It can happen anywhere in the world. Once, on Dec. 1, 1955, it happened in Montgomery, Ala., when an ordinary person named Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat in the "colored" section so that a white person could use it. The simple act inspired a bus boycott, the precursor of what would come to be recognized as a pivotal moment in the American civil rights movement.

 Malala was released from a British hospital Friday. As she resumes her efforts for universal education, we do well to remember that there are civil rights still to be secured all around the world -- and that ordinary people still can do great things to further the cause.

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