On October 21, only 11 days after becoming the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the National Constitution Center’s prestigious Liberty Medal. The reception and award ceremony was buzzing with people of all sorts who had been inspired by Malala’s story.
In her acceptance speech Malala said, “I speak for my sisters in India who are being raped and hung on sheets. I speak for my brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria who were going to quality schools but suddenly are now in camps as refugees. I raise my voice for my sisters in Nigeria who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, and I raise my voice for my brothers and sisters in Gaza who were caught in the crossfire of Israel and Palestine.”
Malala then announced that she was sending the entirety of the prize money to support schools in Pakistan.
The Constitution Center also invited another advocate for the right to education to help present the award: Minnijean Brown-Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine, who encouraged the younger generation not to think of people like Malala and the Little Rock Nine as superheroes, but instead to imagine them as normal people, because every person has the capacity to become an activist.
Malala began to blog about her life as an anonymous young girl living under the Taliban’s oppressive regime for BBC Urdu in 2009. Eventually, following an edict that stated that girls could no longer go to school, she became more involved in spreading the word about the Taliban’s policies. As she grew into a more recognizable activist, she was put more at risk.
On Oct. 9, 2012, Malala was riding on a school bus when a masked gunman boarded the bus and demanded for Malala to identify herself, and if she didn’t he said he would shoot everyone on the bus. Malala was identified and shot in the head. She eventually made a full recovery, and her audience had tripled overnight.
Taking into account her inspirational story and bravery in speaking up for oppressed people even after her assassination attempt, it is no wonder she received this award.