This is what inspiration looks like.
Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl who survived an assassination attempt by Islamic extremists for campaigning for women’s education, delivered another moving speech at the opening of a library in Birmingham, England. In a voice both settled and soothing, the young woman spoke to a small crowd with simple, confident words.
In light of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and the continuing unrest in the Middle East, Malala’s message is more vital than ever.
“Dear brothers and sisters,” she said, “I would like to begin with my personal story.
“In my school in Swat, I was considered to be a good obedient student and I also used to get top marks in my class.
“Apart from my school text books, I read nine books from the library. I thought I did a great job in my whole 15 years of life. But last year, seven days after the incident that I faced, I was brought here to Birmingham for further treatment. When I was discharged from the hospital, I was introduced to this new society, which is different from our society in Pakistan, in many ways.
“Here people tell me that they have read hundreds of books. It does not matter how old they are, they take a keen interest in reading, even children of six and seven years have read more books than me. Now I have challenged myself that I will read thousands of books and I will empower myself with knowledge.
“Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism.
“I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only education our minds, but our hearts and our souls. This is the way forward to our destiny of peace and prosperity.
“Books are very precious – some books can travel you back centuries and some take you into the future. In some books you will visit the core of your heart and in others you will go out into the universe.
“Books keep ones feeling alive.
“Aristotle’s words are still breathing, Rumi’s poetry will always inspire and Shakespeare’s soul will never die. There is no better way to explain the importance of books than to say that even God chose the medium of a book to send his message to his people.”
“It is an honor for me to be here in Birmingham,” she continued, “the beating heart of England. Birmingham is very special for me because it is here that I found myself alive, seven days after I was shot. It is now my second home, after my beloved Pakistan.
“The doctors and nurses of this town strived to rehabilitate my educational career, and the great people of this city gave me great moral support and today’s event proves that this city loves me and I love it too.
“This great library, which is the biggest library in Europe, has educated the people of Birmingham for decades and it will continue to enlighten future generations.
“As one said, a room without books is like a body without a soul. And I say ‘a city without a library is like a graveyard.”
Vowing to continue to work for women’s educational rights, Malala added, “We must not forget that 57 million children are out of school.
“We must speak up for peace and development in Nigeria, Syria and Somalia.
“We must speak up for the children of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, who are suffering from terrorism, poverty, child labor and child trafficking.
“Let us help them through our voice, action and charity.
“Let us help them to read books and go to school.
“And let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.”
And let us not forget to support the work of Malala and others like her who continue to strive for a world where peace is possible.
To follow Malala’s work, visit her website.