Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai told an audience at Forbes' "Under 30" Summit in Philadelphia last week that the way to peace is through education, not weapons. See it here
17-year old Malala, the youngest winner in the Peace Prize's 113-year history told President Barack Obama, a fellow Peace Prize winner that the U.S. needs to stop arming the world.
It's hard to argue with her passion or her ideals. It's a wonder, though that she is able to command the world stage without the afflictions of political ambition, campaign funding or American lobbyists.
This week's theme at ChicagoNow.com is "The road less traveled," after a poem by Robert Frost. The actual title of the poem is, "The Road Not Taken" , even more apropos of Malala's lonely journey.
She may, in fact be building the road herself.
Malala Yousafzai is articulate, sincere and wise beyond her years, although she has certainly gone through a lot for someone her age. If we could clone her and make each of those clones the head of a nation, her dreams might just become a reality.
If there were 100 Malalas, the world would be that much better off. Even more so if there were 1,000 or a million.
Among the things Ms. Yousafzai had to say to President Obama were:
1. If the money the United States spends on weapons went toward global education change would come. “The best way to fight terrorism,” she said emphatically, “is through education.”
2. A drone attack may kill two or three terrorists but it will not kill terrorism. If the drones continue terrorism will spread.
3. America should support democracy in Pakistan. This is how it will become a developed country.
These are not things with which one would choose to pick an argument. Sadly, though these principles are like the proverbial pearls before swine. We are either not ready for that message, or we have already reached the tipping point, beyond which lies only conflict.
Malala's story underscores the difficulty, if not futility of her task. How do you reform a culture that condones shooting a 15-year old girl for any reason, let alone that all she asks for is the opportunity of an education?
Taliban soldiers have burned down girls' schools and, in one case, locked the girls inside to burn to death.
Malala comes from a culture that lives in a broader time frame than Western civilization. They are connected to the past and can hold grudges for centuries. They live their lives not only for themselves, but for future generations.
Here in America we watch Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals and have drive-thru weddings.
As much as educational opportunities and a strong democracy could help to forge a unified and peaceful Pakistan, there are hurdles which may prove to be insurmountable.
First, there is already an educational system, of sorts in place in Pakistan comprised of madrases These schools are mostly funded by Saudi oil money and Iran, but also receive both funds and students from various terrorist organizations.
Besides teaching the fundamentals of fundamental Islam, these schools also teach hatred of the Big Three; Christians, Jews and America. Consider madrases as pre-terrorist training, where the most progressive of the schools teaches bomb-making to women.
They don't teach reading or writing, although they do instruct students to allow non-believers-Muslims who don't follow their fundamental voodoo-to repent before they kill them.
The second hurdle is that education will have limited benefit without economic opportunity. Even if we help them build an educational infrastructure, where would they find employment? We're having trouble providing that here in America.
Some might argue that any efforts at building school systems should start here, at home, where funding cuts and reactionary thinking have severely curtailed American school systems.
The biggest hurdle Malala faces, though may not come from the threat she poses to the Taliban, but rather the threat they pose to the rest of the world.
With ISIL gaining strength every day, the tentacles of terrorism reach ever farther and that threat is immediate. The Department of Homeland Security has increased security at federal facilities across the country.
As the threat grows, so does the clamor to fight terrorism at its roots. Given the choice between creating an enlightened Pakistan in 20 or 30 years and killing 2 or 3 terrorists today, most of us are going to order the drone strike.
None of this, however takes anything away from Malala. She is a remarkable young lady who is truly on the road less traveled. Unfortunately, we're more likely to go with the dead-bird-in-the-hand thing.
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