TOM McNAUGHT: Good afternoon and welcome. I'm Tom McNaught, Executive Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation, and on behalf of Tom Putnam, the Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and all of our Library and Foundation colleagues, I thank you all for coming.
I know I speak for everyone in this room when I say to Malala and her father how absolutely honored we are to have you here with us this afternoon. [applause] I should note, for the record, that Library Director Tom Putnam and other federal employees who are here today are here as public citizens. [laughter/applause] They are not here in their official roles while the federal government, the National Archives and the Kennedy Library remain closed to the public due to a lack of Congressional appropriation. I personally will spare you my own commentary on the situation [laughter] and only say that we all hope that this is resolved quickly so that we may reopen our nation's memorial to President Kennedy. [applause]
Let me begin by acknowledging the generous underwriters of the Kennedy Library Forums: lead sponsor Bank of America, Raytheon, Boston Capital, the Lowell Institute, the Boston Foundation; and our media partners, the Boston Globe, Xfinity and WBUR.
We also want to thank our neighbors here at Boston College High School for hosting today's special event celebrating the courage of Malala. [applause] I particularly want to thank Jennifer Tegan, Jamie Casale and BC High president Bill Kemeza for coming to the rescue of our Forum Producer Amy Macdonald when they learned that Congress had closed the doors to the Kennedy Presidential Library. Thank you. [applause]
We are so very fortunate to have Robin Young with us this afternoon, who will join Malala and her father in a conversation about Malala's incredible journey. Robin brings more than 25 years of broadcast experience to her current role as host of Here & Now, a public radio magazine program, produced by WBUR here in Boston, but distributed across the United States to an estimated three million weekly listeners in over 325 stations in the country.
Robin is a Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker who has also reported for NBC, CBS and ABC Television. She has received several Emmy Awards, as well the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award. She is a national treasure with a national following and we Bostonians are proud to claim her as our own. [applause]
It is my great pleasure to introduce Jackie Jenkins-Scott, a member of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's Board of Directors, who is with us to make a very special presentation to our honored guest. Jackie Jenkins-Scott is President of Wheelock College, a position she has held since 2004, and she has served as a passionate advocate in fulfilling the unique and compelling mission of this private college.
You might be interested to know, Malala, that Wheelock College was founded by a woman. In 1888, Lucy Wheelock began her first kindergarten teaching training class which soon became a national model for early childhood education. And under the leadership of Jackie, Wheelock College continues to enjoy a national reputation as among the finest higher education institutions in preparing teachers and social workers and child life professionals for service to children and families.
From 1983 until 2004, Jackie served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Dimock Community Health Center, one of Boston's largest community-based health and human service agencies in the City of Boston, serving the city's most vulnerable populations. Jackie held this leadership position during the height of the AIDS epidemic that disproportionately affected gay men and people of color in our city. And I can tell you that her leadership during that crisis is legendary. As a community leader, public health advocate and innovative administrator, Jackie Jenkins-Scott has been a nationally known figure for nearly 30 years.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming to the stage Jackie Jenkins-Scott. [applause]
JACKIE JENKINS-SCOTT: Thank you, Tom. I liked everything except the 30 years.
[laughter] It's a pleasure to be with you this evening.
Malala, it is my great honor to welcome you on behalf of the Board of Directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and our Foundation President Caroline Kennedy. As President Kennedy once observed, children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future. How very true. Your personal courage is an inspiration to all humanity.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of our own country's civil rights movement. Fifty years ago, hundreds of students in Birmingham, Alabama, some younger than you, marched to protest segregation in their city. At first they were arrested and set free, only to be arrested again the next day. It was called the Children's Crusade, and the marches were only stopped after the police commissioner used the hose and set police dogs to attack the children. Like you, these courageous young people served as an example to the rest of our country. They would not be denied the equal opportunity that only education can bring.
Our country has also struggled with those who did not feel all children, regardless of race or sex or social class, deserved the best education possible. Many whites did not want black children to become educated, fearing they would challenge white supremacy and not be content with jobs working in the fields or in domestic service. The general philosophy was that if African Americans were kept ill-educated, they would "remain in their place." In society, there was also a belief in some areas that African Americans were not intelligent enough to deserve an education. But it was our nation's black children, Malala, who like you faced down hatred and violence and showed uncommon courage in their insistence on an equal education. They understood, as President Kennedy did, that education is the mainstream of our economic and social progress. It is the highest expression of achievement in our society, ennobling and enriching human life.
Part of the charm of reading your wonderful memoir is that it transports us to the remote mountain valley where you grew up; outlines the harrowing times you and your people have lived through over the past two decades; and offers a wonderful story about your life growing up in a loving family and sharing the same heartaches and questions that all of us face as we leave our childhood behind and enter the adult world.
You said, "When I was 13, I stopped growing. I had always looked older than I was. But suddenly all of my friends were taller than me. Every night I prayed to Allah to be taller. I measured myself on the bedroom wall with a ruler and a pencil. Every morning I would stand again to see if I had grown. But the pencil mark stayed stubbornly at five feet. I even promised Allah that if I could grow just a tiny bit taller, I would offer 100 extra prayers on top of the five daily ones." That's very good.
Malala, the way you have handled yourself as a young woman and as a target of Taliban violence, having narrowly escaped death, has proven that Allah has answered your prayers. [applause] For no one, no one, stands taller than you in the world of women's rights, on behalf of children's rights, and in advancing human rights. No one stands taller than you. [applause]
In the name of all who will benefit from your courage and your voice, I thank you for your inspiring example. While you faced grave danger as a child, the likes that most of us will never know, you have not only survived but you have made your parents and your people proud. Your father is very proud of you.
Many others would have quit or withdrawn from the struggle, but now as an international symbol, speaking out in the halls of the United Nations and in the back streets of some of the world's poorest neighborhoods, you are using your life story to protect the freedom of others, especially of young girls and women throughout the globe so that all of them can carry on with their dreams.
In President Kennedy's inaugural address, he spoke to you and all nations' children when he said, "My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." It is now my great pleasure, my great pleasure, to invite you to stand up -- and your dad -- so that I might present you with the sculpture of President Kennedy as a reminder of what you have done for the freedom of all mankind. [applause]
[Sculpture given and accepted]
JACKIE JENKINS-SCOTT: I said to Malala I hoped that she would remember this day with great pleasure because we are so proud of President Kennedy and his inspiration, and we hope he will serve as an inspiration to you as well.
Now it is my great pleasure to introduce Nicholas Negroponte, who has championed and supported Malala during this long journey. Nicholas is founder and chairman of the famous One Laptop Per Child nonprofit association, and we love the work you're doing, Nicholas. He was also cofounder and director of the MIT Media Lab and the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Technology.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Nicholas Negroponte. [applause]
NICHOLAS NEGROPONTE: My remarks will be very short. In life, there's sometimes a very narrow line between a cliché and a proverb. One of the proverbs that is also a cliché sometimes is that to educate a boy is to educate a person; but to educate a girl is to educate a family. Most people who look at education worldwide look at educating girls not just because of the unfairness that you talk about, but because it has more leverage on the future.
So when I started One Laptop Per Child and tried to look at education generally, I realized that there are about 100 million children who do not go to school. Some of them do not go to school not because of society or the kind of issues you talk about, but sometimes they don't go to school because there is no school. There isn't one. There isn't one within walking distance; there isn't even one that they can go to.
So when I looked at that, I said to myself I have to fix it, somehow -- train teachers, build schools. But that's going to take a long time, so what can we do in between? And that's when about ten years ago I started the idea of One Laptop Per Child. As I was doing it – and we were doing it in countries like Afghanistan, we were doing it in Ethiopia, and I'll use Afghanistan because we were there more than Pakistan – in Afghanistan, for example – and you won't believe this – only 50% of the children go to school. You might believe that. But only 25% of the teachers are literate. Can you believe that?
When you look at a situation like that, you depend upon -- at least in the next few years -- the children. Maybe the children are the key. And I'm sorry in your itinerary that you saw President Obama yesterday, because if you were seeing him tomorrow, I would give you a message. [laughter] And the message is very simple: In Pakistan, in your country, slightly over five million children do not go to school. I can't tell how many of them don't go to school because there isn't a school, but I do know that at least 70% are girls. I also know that the United States, right now is spending $2 billion a week in Afghanistan, mostly for war. Two billion dollars a week. For us to connect every child in Pakistan who does not go to school is three and a half days of war. And I would have asked you to tell that to President Obama, for him to tell other people. But you can tell him by mail. [applause]
So let me thank you very much for coming to Boston. We're deeply honored. I know many of the people who are working with you. I only had the pleasure of meeting you, and I hope to see both of you many times in the near future. And God bless you for doing what you're doing. [applause]
ROBIN YOUNG: Amy Macdonald, by the way, is running this event tonight. [applause] So now it's our turn. Your turn. How are you doing with all of this? How are you doing?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: I'm very well now, and I'm recovering every day. And all these activities may seem as busy, may be tiring, but our goal is very important. There's the education of every child. We're not only sending them to school, but we are building their future. So for that reason, I think I need to do a lot, and I'm still doing it.
And thank you, sir, Nicholas. I don't know, you said it, and I heard your voice through my heart yesterday. And when I met President Obama, I told him that instead of sending guns and tanks and soldiers to Afghanistan, why don't you send books and pens and teachers? And I told him that this is the best way to fight terrorism. [applause]
ROBIN YOUNG: Nick Negroponte does extraordinary work, but I want to say, having read the book, she doesn't hesitate to say things just like that as people are handing her awards and complimenting her. So you did speak to the President about that. And what a whirlwind of a week! All that speculation that you were going to win the Nobel Peace Prize, youngest person ever nominated. You were on every major television program. You were with Jon Stewart. I just heard some young people say, "You got to meet Jon Stewart!" [laughter] Believe me, Jon Stewart's saying, "I got to meet Malala." But I'm betting the most important thing that happened for you this week was that you got to meet America Ferrara.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Oh, yes.
ROBIN YOUNG: Explain why the star of the TV program Ugly Betty was so important to you.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: First of all, she's not Ugly Betty, she's Pretty Betty. [laughter] And she's very nice, she's very kind. And I could not imagine that this is the Ugly Betty I saw on TV!
And she's very nice.
ROBIN YOUNG: You name many inspirations. We'll tell the story that a lot of people may think they know, but there's so much more to it. But when the troubles came to your region when you were growing up, Ugly Betty was one of the things that inspired you. Why?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: At that time, when the situation of Swat was getting worse, we were in terrorism every day. We heard the news that two or three people are slaughtered in Mingora [?]. And we used to hear that every day a school is blasted. We were living in a very hard situation. And at that time, we just wanted to go out of the world of terrorism. We wanted to just see another world.
And by looking to Ugly Betty we were thinking that,”Ooh, this is a dream world. These people are worried about fashion. They are just concerned about what kind of shoes they wear, what kind of dress they're wearing, what hairstyle they have, the color of lipstick.” And I said, “They have other kind of problems?” And if I look at my area, Swat, we don't even care about lipstick and these things. We want peace in our valley. So that's why it was looking at Ugly Betty was like just a dream. So we also wished to be living in a safe place.
ROBIN YOUNG: And to be able to write and have a magazine. It was a fashion magazine, but it was a magazine that she worked at and that was inspirational, too.
Let's go back and tell a little bit more about Swat and how you came by these strong feelings that you have. Your book is also a story about the birth of Pakistan. The British gave India independence in 1947, created Pakistan, the first Muslim country. Your region, Swat, was added to Pakistan in that deal.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: In 1969.
ROBIN YOUNG: And you say, "I will always be a proud daughter of Pakistan," but you see yourself first and foremost as being a Swati and a Pashtun. What is the strength of that tie? Start with Swat; what is the pull to Swat for you?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: The first thing is that if you look at our history, first of all, we are Pashtun because we have been Pashtun for centuries. Then, Islam came later on and Pakistan is just born now. But we are really kind to Pakistan and we are Pakistani, we accept Pakistan as our homeland.
Swat is very beautiful. You would love it. When I was living in Swat, I did not realize that I was living in a paradise. And those tall mountains, those lush, green hills, and the river of Swat, I can never forget.
And when I was brought to UK and when I saw UK, when I saw these roads and like artificial kind of forests and when I saw artificial kind of parks, so I just realized, like Swat was very natural and it had natural beauty. So I miss Swat.
At that time we were living in Swat, I was going to school daily, carrying a heavy bag and doing my homework. I was not realizing how important education is. It was a normal part of life. But in 2007, the terrorism started and the Taliban, the terrorists, they stopped us from going to school. In 2009, in the month of January, they announced on radio that after the 15th of January 2009, if a girl goes to school, then "You know what we can do." And they blasted more than 400 schools in Swat. They also flogged women, they slaughtered people. They even stopped women to go to market; there was a ban on women's freedom.
In that hard time, I did not want to live in that situation forever. We said that we are going to die one day, and also these Taliban are not going to leave us. So let us speak up for our rights, let's struggle for our rights. Let us struggle for peace and then die. [applause]
ROBIN YOUNG: Ziauddin, dad sitting there, she, of course – most people know this – gets a lot of this from – a lot of it is something that is obviously special that's been put on this earth, but a lot of it is from you. You were the son of a cleric, grandson of a great speaker. You were determined to start schools and in particular to educate girls. A really rough go at first; you had to sell your wife's wedding bangles to pay for this early on. Where did that fervor come from on your part?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Thank you very much. First of all, I am very thankful to the people of Boston. Dr. Counter is here. We came last month here to Harvard. And the hospitality of the people of Boston have impressed us a lot, and we love this town. Thank you all. [applause]
You say where did it come from. So I think that right from the very beginning, I was very much sensitive about human rights and especially the rights of girls, because they were the most ignored. They were neglected. They are not given equal status to men. My father was a great leader, although he was a cleric. But he had a passionate soul and he was a lovely person. He inculcated in my personality and he made me sensitive to discriminations, all kinds of discrimination – social, economic, political, gender.
And as you see, this – I should be very short – the second half of the 20th century was the century of the emancipation from the segregation based on color. And it was the beauty of the moment, of Martin Luther King moment, that when he spoke for the African American, for the black, the white people were there to support him. I have listened to his speeches when he says, "I dream so black and white, both of them, stand up." I think that this century, 21st century – that discrimination was on the base of color. And this long ignored discrimination, long neglected discrimination on the base of gender, that this century will be the moment and it will be the change century and it will abolish discrimination on the base of gender. [applause] Because I think that simple biological difference between a woman and a man, simple biological difference, should not be made, is kind of difference should not be the reason for the basis of any superiority, this simple biological difference should not be the reason for political or social discrimination.
ROBIN YOUNG: This was your message for years, right? You would gather elders around. You became a spokesman …
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Exactly.
ROBIN YOUNG: … became a leader in your community.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: And I will add just one more point. With African American, the people of the white community of America, they were shoulder and shoulder with those people with Martin Luther. I'll ask the men who are here and the men all around the world to stand with girls and with women to abolish this discrimination. And I will ask the men to raise up your hands who want to join this moment. Men, only men! [applause] Only men, not women. Thank you very much.
ROBIN YOUNG: But you know that when you were speaking this way in Pakistan and you write eloquently about how you were in an environment where having a girl was often a disappointment, if it wasn't a boy. Girls were expected to cook and take care of either brothers and their parents. The founder of Pakistan actually was in favor of equality for women, but he died a year after the country was founded. You had generals, like Zia, who were starting to impose Islamic law. A woman couldn't go out without a man, even if it was a five-year-old. This is the climate that you were saying this. And you had muftis and elders come to your house when the schools started to grow and accuse you of blasphemy. You made a compromise with them on this occasion where the girls would go in the back door so people wouldn't see them. I ask you the question that everyone has asked you …
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: She'll answer.
ROBIN YOUNG: Well, first you. Did you ever think …You're the one who saw the Taliban come in Afghanistan and you told people, "These fires are coming to our valley," and they laughed at you. Knowing that those fires were coming to the Swat Valley, did you ever think, "Maybe I should send my daughter away"?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: I beg your pardon?
ROBIN YOUNG: I knew you were going to say that.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: [translates for father ]
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: No, no.
ROBIN YOUNG: Because what you were saying was dangerous?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: No, I never thought it because, you see, you can't leave your land unless you are compelled to leave it. And we saw Taliban rule in Afghanistan for some five, six years. Taliban are basically the legacy of the establishment of Pakistan and America.
ROBIN YOUNG: The legacy of both?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Both, exactly. Ours and yours. And I usually say that Taliban are the illicit child of the illegal partnership between our establishment and your establishment. So this is really simple. Talibanization [inaudible] Afghanistan. Some pseudo intellectuals praised the peace of Afghanistan in those days for their strategic reasons. In Afghanistan Taliban rule, there was no school. No freedom for the girls. No respect for the cultural heritage. They bombed the statues of Bamiyan, the history which we were proud of. When Talibanization started in Swat, I was thinking that, “Okay, this thing is unacceptable.” How can I put my neck in the yoke of slavery forever?
Just imagine, just imagine, just imagine – this is the free nation of America – just imagine that you are told that you have to live just for one week in a kind of situation that your children will not go to school. Your men will follow the thugs. They all have to keep the beards, to wear the clothes they wish. No music. It's unacceptable. So that's why I sensitized the people of Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It was not only me; I had so many other people and they have sacrificed a lot. This thing is unacceptable.
ROBIN YOUNG: Malala, I'm imagining though if your dad had said, "It's getting too dangerous, you have to go," you probably wouldn't have gone. Just tell us what the school meant to you. As your father's building the school, you grew up in a school; you literally lived over one and then became a ferocious student. What was school? What did school mean to you?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Well, we were living in different houses because our houses were on rent and whenever the owners say, "Give me my house back," then we have to change houses. Most of our houses were next to the school, and I can say that I just grew up in school. And when I was a child, when I couldn't even speak and my mother used to take me to the classroom, my mother says, "You used to deliver a speech or give a lecture to the empty chairs and to the empty classroom." [laughter] Even from childhood.
When I was going to school, I loved my school because I was learning there. I was not only learning about ABC, about chemistry, about physics, I was not only learning about cells and about biology, I was also learning the basic things that I need in my life. I was learning about equality, that all the girls who are sitting on the same benches are equal. There's no difference between you. If you are a girl or if you are a boy; if you are a black or if you are a white; if you are Muslim or if you are Christian, there's no difference between you.
I was also learning how to respect each other, how to respect your teachers, and how to be kind to your teachers. And not only I was learning, every girl was learning this; every boy was learning this. And you were not only reading and writing, we were also building our future. We were also building the future of our country, Pakistan.
So that's why I loved my school. And I used to be in competition with other girls and it was my wish to get high marks. And usually I got high marks in class, but for some time I just took it as, like, Malala, you can do it, don't work so hard. And then a rival came and a new girl got admission in our school. Some girls told me, "She's going to beat you this time." And I said, "No, she can't." And she did. [laughter] Because sometimes we think that we can be in the same position for the whole life, but it needs hard work at every second. And I have learned in my life that if you want to keep your status, if you want to keep yourself in the same position, then don't say, "Oh, no, no one is going to come and beat me." Just work hard in every exam and in every part of your life.
ROBIN YOUNG: I love how you describe your competitiveness. That best friend of yours was not a best friend when you were both competing for number one.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: We were friends.
ROBIN YOUNG: But it was great to see. Sometimes girls get to be a certain age – in this country we have this problem – they get to be a certain age and they don't want to compete with grades anymore; that's not cool. And so they step back and let other people go ahead. You were ferocious in your competition, in reading your Anna Karenina and your Jane Austen and your history of Pakistan. But there is a point where you become afraid. Getting up at night after everyone's asleep to make sure the doors are locked.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yes. I think every human, if he's a human, he must get afraid when it's a hard situation. But the thing was that our courage was more powerful than our fear and courage won. At night when it's dark, everyone feels fear. But there's hope as well. If you will see the sunshine early in the morning, everything will be okay. The darkness has to go. So I had hope at that time. And I was thinking that this really isn't terrorism, but we are going to see a peaceful valley of Swat where the tourists will be coming back to Malam Jabba, the ski resort, where we will see people on the bank side of the river Swat, where people will be visiting the lush, green hills.
We had hope at that time. And my father was supporting the cause of education, and he was an inspiration for me because he spoke the truth. He was not afraid of anyone. And you only know my father, but there was something behind us, there was someone. And my mother, she is great, because she's the one who told us to tell the truth. She said that in Qur'an it is written that falsehood has to go and truth has to come. She said that this falsehood, this terrorism is not going to be forever. You speak, you raise your voice, you struggle for it, you're going to see peace in Swat, and the truth is going to come. So that's why my mother has played a great role in our activities for girls' education.
ROBIN YOUNG: Your mother, applause for her. [applause] Your mother, the day that you were shot, you were in a little school bus with some friends the day that two armed men came looking for you. Your mother was walking into a school to take her first lessons to learn how to read and write. So there's a mutual inspiration there.
You also say that for those who say that it was your dad who sort of put you out there, you chose to go out there yourself. And for those who say your dad was like a tennis dad and was pushing you from behind, you say no. You were propelling yourself, but inspired by him.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: By the way, her mother also inspired me. [laughter]
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: My mother was pushing my father. [laughter]
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: When I was a boy, I was dark in color. And I was thinking that I'm not a handsome boy. I have some inferiority complex. I thought that the boys with the better whiter color, they are very handsome.
ROBIN YOUNG: You thought the whiter the skin, it was more handsome.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Yeah. And I was dark, darker than this. So I thought that I'm not handsome. And her mother is really beautiful. So when I was in grade eight and nine, and somehow I saw her and for the first time she was the first one who took an interest in me.
[laughter] And from that very day, my inferiority complex was gone; that, yes, I'm handsome, I'm loved by someone in this world.
ROBIN YOUNG: I'm glad you brought that up. First of all, this whole room is going, really? Because you're one good-looking man! But also, I wanted to say to you, in the book the color of skin is something you think about growing up; you wish that you had lighter skin and you were putting some milk cream on your skin. You are beautiful, just beautiful.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Thank you. Well, this is what we think when we are growing up. It's like I'm still a teenager, but at the very time when you get a teenager. And I used to ask my friend, Moniba, she was my best friend, "What cream have you put on your face? You are looking brighter and lighter. Your skin color's lighter than mine." And she said, "I'm putting the same cream as you." And I said, "No, just compare the face color!"
At that time, I was really worried. And as honorable [pointing to Jackie Jenkins-Scott]…I'm sorry, I don't know your name, but thank you so much for your encouragement and for your support. As you said in your speech, I was really worried about my height and I said I'll never grow up and I'm never going to be taller. Now when I look at my height, God has given me … I was asking Him only for two or three inches, and he just made me as high as the sky and now I'm that much higher that I can reach people.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: For your cause.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Because of my cause, I can now – like, reaching you is the greatest height, is the greatest height. [applause]
ROBIN YOUNG: But at tremendous cost. And Ziauddin, in the days leading up to this terrible shooting, a letter had been sent out in the village -- everyone got it -- condemning you and the school. You were told that there were threats against her. You were offered bodyguards but your thought was, “Well, then, more people will be killed if something happens.” You have the shooting and you're separated for a while, just terrible, painful. Thankfully, the bullet doesn't go to your brain but there are bone chips and you have a terrible, terrible time, hours and hours and hours of surgeries. Then, this global response. You and your wife were huddled in rooms just trying to get word about Malala, you didn't know what was happening around the world. When you found out, Malala – bags of letters from school children, word from around the world – what was that like?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: When I was in the hospital, I did not know that the whole world was praying for me, and every girl and every child was supporting me from every country – from Pakistan, from India, from United States of America, from UK, from Germany – from every part of the world. And I was thinking that someone has shot me and then I was laying on the roadside, and then a doctor just saw me and then he brought me to UK. I didn't even know that my father knows I was shot. I think 15, 16 days later, one of the nurses, she brought some cards and I was looking at those cards. At that time, it was Big Eid, as we celebrate, Muslims celebrate.
ROBIN YOUNG: Eid?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yeah, Eid. So I was looking at the cards, I said these might be the Eid cards. And when I was looking at the cards, I could see the date; it was 12th of October, 11th of October. And I was totally stunned, I said, “Who sent it?” Then when I saw the names of the countries, from everywhere I received cards. And then they …
ROBIN YOUNG: They would just send them to, "The girl who was shot."
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Exactly.
ROBIN YOUNG: Birmingham, England, and it would get to you.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Exactly.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yes. They used to write on the envelopes, most of the people wrote this like: "The girl who was shot, Birmingham." [laughter] And I received those cards. And I'm really thankful to people for their encouragement, for their support, because you're not only supporting me, you're supporting the cause of girls' education, you're supporting the cause of women's rights, you're supporting the cause of peace in the countries which are suffering from terrorism.
And when I was reading those cards -- I think nearly 100 -- and the nurse told me that there are many more, like thousands of cards and, "You have to read that." So I'm really happy now I have those cards. As well as Teddy Bears, as well as … People have even given me shampoos, shoes, dresses, nightshirts. Some people are, "I know, Malala, people will be sending you cards, but I think you need a toothpaste and a toothbrush as well." [laughter] And some people said, "You need a shampoo as well. I think people might not be thinking of you." But thank you so much to all of them.
ROBIN YOUNG: Not everyone. People back home in Pakistan, some people thought that you had shot your daughter to draw attention to your cause. And you had been very well known; you'd been speaking in different places before this happened. You wrote a blog for the BBC long before much of the world became aware of you in the way that they did. There was a lot of jealousy. And then there's the Taliban. You even got a letter from a Taliban commander. He seemed almost contrite. He wrote something like, "I want you to know, you were not attacked for your work for education," but rather what he perceived as your fight against Islam. How do you respond to that? A letter from a Taliban commander?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: The first thing is that some people -- a very small group -- is against me. We must also look at those millions of people who raised the banner of, "I Am Malala." The people who are against me is a very small group and they are not thinking just for a second. They are not accepting others' ideas. They are not even thinking what others' ideas, what other people are saying. People who are against me who just say this did not happen at all and this is a fake picture, and, "She was not hit by the bullet," and some people say, "Her father did it," I think these people cannot trust anyone anymore because the leaders and most of the politicians they have seen, a lot of them are corrupt. That might be the reason.
But I ask people and I request them that I'm not asking for any support for myself. Whether I'm shot or not, it does not matter. I want support for my cause of education, for my cause of peace. Even if you don't tell me that, "We support you," just say, "We support education." This would be as if you are supporting me. So I want support for my cause, not for myself. I do not want people to say, "Malala has been shot and we are really sorry for her," or just say, "She's not shot." I just really want to help those children who are out of school. So I need support for that.
The other thing is that the letter that … We did not receive the letter, we just saw it on the Internet. That was the right of the talib to send me, and he expressed his feelings. And now it's my right to decide what I want to do. In the first two, three lines, he said that, "We are not against education and we, like you, spoke against us." But then later on, if you read the letter in detail and down, he has also written, "The school is not good. This is a Western education. This is not good for children and the children's mind then gets changed." And they have their own ideology about education.
But the thing is, as my father says, education is not Eastern, nor Western. Education is education. And I don't know what the Taliban would invent instead of stethoscope, or they will invent instead of thermometer. Education is the same. And education is each child's right. We must not connect education in school system to religion. Because in schools, we're also taught about religions. So going to school, a child will not only learn about religion, but also about science, also about math, also about English, also about other languages, also about history and literature.
But in madrasa, you can only learn about Qur'an. And then your mind is narrow, then you don't think broadly. And if you go to school, you know about the whole world. So that's why; he sent the letter and he expressed his feelings, and I'm still continuing my campaign for girls' education. And I'm never going to stop it. [applause]
ROBIN YOUNG: But can you go back? Can you ever go back to Swat, which you love so much?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yes. I can go back to Swat. Swat is my motherland. Pakistan is my motherland. Pakistan is my country. I can never forget my country. I think it's hard because people think that, "The Taliban have threatened her," and even they reminded me two, three days ago, like, "Remember the threat."
I think we must not be afraid of death. And I'm not afraid of death, because I have seen death once in my life. Before that incident, I was a little bit, like, if you are killed, how would you feel? And even when I was -- even before that incident -- I used to ask God how would one feel if he's shot or if he dies. I think God showed me the experience. So I think that God supports me in my cause of education. And the Taliban shot me at that time, even that supported me in my cause. Even that does not want to kill me. So the Taliban must keep it in mind that one has to die one day. And if I die early, it does not matter; I will continue my campaign. I'm going back to Pakistan as soon as possible. I want to be a politician, and through politics I'm going to serve my nation. I'm going to serve Pakistan, and I will work for education of every child. [applause]
ROBIN YOUNG: A hard question though, Ziauddin. Do you ever question whether that's the right path? There are people -- we see the security -- there are people making threats against your daughter. She has scarves that were given to her from the children of Benazir Bhutto. What a gift.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Thank you to them.
ROBIN YOUNG: But we know that story. So do you have that same feeling that there should be a return?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: I think we live in Pakistan, in Swat Valley, so I was the target of Taliban, basically, not she, because the Taliban destroyed some 1,500 schools, more than 1,500 schools. But they never injured a single child or a teacher. They blasted schools when they were empty. So when she was struggling and she was striving for the right of education, and later on she came to the limelight, we still were thinking that the militants or the terrorists might have some ethics. Because bad guys also have some rules and regulation and ethics. And I thought and many thought, that they will not come for a child, at least because they also need support for their ideology, because you can't go forward without the support of the people.
So that's why we were a bit less careful. But it happened. So I can't trust them now. At least, I will not put her life at stake as a father. And I remember the agonies and the pains while she was almost separated from us. She has come back; I welcome her and I'll keep her as much as I can.
ROBIN YOUNG: As much as you can. Well, what we're going to do is we have some questions that people have submitted. And then I know you're going to be leaving right after that. There are books for sale; Harvard Store Books is here with books, but this poor girl will not be signing 97,000 books. So we'll ask some questions but just to close out that thought – wherever you go in the world, the whole world will be watching. [applause]
And that's one of the questions people had. You had such great girlfriends when you weren't just ferociously trying to beat them in exams. I know you were talking to them by Skype from London for a while. What about them? Are they afraid of going to school? What's their life like?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: When I was shot, I think there were just a few girls on the next two, three days. But in a week, girls started going back to school.
ROBIN YOUNG: And two of the girls were shot with you.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yes. Two other girls were shot with me on that day, and they're now in Atlantic College in Wales. They have been given a scholarship, so they're now studying. But the other girls who are still in Pakistan, who are still in Swat, they are going to school. I talk to my friend Moniba and I also talk to my friend Malka-e-Noor -- who was like a rival -- and they are courageous. Maybe they are not known, but they are courageous. Going to school in Swat, in Afghanistan, is courage, is bravery, and they are brave. They're not known to anyone, but they are brave; they are going to school in such a hard situation.
I called my friend Malka-e-Noor and I asked her, "How is everything going on in school? And are you enjoying your school? Now, I'm not in examination, you would be happy." And she said, "No, Malala, now even I get first position in the class, but I don't enjoy it as much as when you were here, when I had to struggle and work hard and defeat you." [laughter]
ROBIN YOUNG: What about you? In the book, you tell how when you were in the hospital and befriending the nurses and trying to begin having your life, they brought you some films and one of them was Bend It Like Beckham, and you saw these girls take off their tee shirts and play in their sports bras and you were like, "Oh, my god, I can't watch that!" And I'm thinking now you must be bombarded with Western culture as you travel the world and still live in Britain. Is that hard for you to sort of … You're courageous, you stand up for women's rights, but some of the things that women have won the rights for make you cringe – short shorts and things like that.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: The first thing is that when my mother saw it, she was really worried. [laughter] We are like modern girls and she is quite very conservative; she's very religious as well. And she used to tell me in Swat, "Cover your face. These men are looking at you. You don't cover your face." And I said, "If they're looking at me, it means I can also look at them, so I'm also looking at them." [laughter] Don't worry.
Yes, that's true that it's hard when we came to this new culture and new society. But I kept one thing in my mind, and that was that this new society has accepted our culture. They have accepted me in salwar kameez, in a shawl. They have accepted our tradition and our culture, that, yes, you can live how you want, according to your cultures. If you want to cover your head, that's fine. So I think then we must also accept their culture.
And this is called diversity, when you live in diversity and when you have tolerance for each others' culture. So yeah, it is hard for me. I can't look at even women when they are in shorts. I take care. Because I come from a society, I cannot imagine it, that's why. It's really hard. I cannot walk in streets like that in Mingora, I'd imagine. Even it's hard for women to go out and work all alone. So that's why the society changed suddenly. But still, I'm working my best and I hope that my mother will …
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Be okay.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yes. [laughter]
ROBIN YOUNG: Don't go to a Red Sox game, by the way. [laughter] Where's Jared Kenney from Manchester, New Hampshire? Just stand up. Jared Kenney from Manchester? Oh, okay, there you are. Jared asks, “What's your favorite book?”
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: I like reading books. And when I was in Swat, I read nine or ten books and I thought I have read a lot of books. And people are praising, "Malala, you have read nine and eight books." And these were like extra books, not part of the curriculum. And in our society, in our schools, I think we must also tell our teachers and the schools in Pakistan that they must tell students to learn books, apart from their curriculum.
When I came here … I didn't come to UK, I was brought to UK. When I was brought to UK and when I saw that children have read hundred and thousands of books, and I was feeling, “Oh, I haven't even read a single book.” So now I am in competition with many, many girls. [laughter] And my favorite book is The Alchemist.
ROBIN YOUNG: What book, I'm sorry?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: The Alchemist.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho.
ROBIN YOUNG: The Alchemist.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Because in that book, I learned that if you are sincere to your cause and if you are true to your cause, then the whole universe will support you. And that's what I believe in my cause of education, that if I'm true to my cause, then every person and everything in this universe is going to support me. And you can see that that is also supporting me in my cause.
ROBIN YOUNG: You are 16?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yeah. I'm old.
ROBIN YOUNG: It just seems impossible. But I'm reminded, because when we were speaking, I think I heard you offered a college scholarship. I think I've heard you at other times offered scholarships, a free scholarship to wherever you want to go. Do you think about where you want to go to college?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: After finishing A levels, I think that I must go to – I think you call it college -- British call it university. So I'm very confused. [laughter] There is Harvard, there is
Oxford, there is Cambridge, there is Yale, there is Stanford, and a new addition. [laughter]
ROBIN YOUNG: Wheelock.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: I have still four years left, so I'll make the decision four years later.
ROBIN YOUNG: A history teacher here we have: “I teach about Islam in the Islamic world. Just tell me one thing you'd want young people to know about Islam.”
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: The first thing is that the Taliban have misused the name of Islam. When I say the Taliban, it does not mean the only group of Taliban; there are many other terrorists as well, terrorist groups that are not known by their names because they also name themselves, so all those terrorists have misused the name of Islam. They're telling people only about jihad, and they are telling people that you must have long beard, two, three inches shorter, or two or three inches longer. Women should not wear nail polish. They should not do makeup. They should not show their face. They should cover their face. They should not show their hands even. They cannot go to the market. They cannot go to the school. This is the face of Islam that usually people see.
The real Islam and the word Islam means peace. Islam is a religion that tells that you cannot force someone to accept Islam. You cannot even force anyone, as the terrorists are doing. Islam also tells us that it is the right of every person, whether girl or boy, to get an education. And it's as a responsibility and duty that you must have knowledge. You must not be limited to your house. You must know about the whole world, you must know about other cultures, other traditions, other societies, and learn from them.
Islam is a religion of tolerance, of patience, of harmony, of love, of friendship. It is the real and the true Islam. We must look at the personality of Prophet, peace be upon him. When we look at how he lived his life, how he was kind to poor people, how he loved children and how he respected elders, we look at his life. He was living in a very poor kind of situation; he didn't even have food, but he was thinking of others.
So the Taliban and the terrorists have used the name of Islam for their own personal benefit, and now people even don't try to know the Prophet, peace be upon him. And that's why his personality is just lost. I think you asked me about one thing in Islam. [laughter] And then education. Education is important. It's the duty, not only right, it's the duty and responsibility that you must get education, you must get knowledge. [applause]
ROBIN YOUNG: One last comment from Ziauddin.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: I will say only one word. The very first revelation to the Prophet was iqra. The very first word is the Prophet's revelation from God. So the very first word to Prophet Muhammad was iqra and this Arabic word means read. Read.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: This is the first word in the Qur'an that was revealed.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: The first word.
ROBIN YOUNG: Well, then, let's make that our last word. The name of the book is I Am Malala. When she was shot, her attacker said, "Who is Malala?" He was looking for her. She is Malala. I only ask that you remain where you are while Malala and her dad leave the stage so they can do that safely.
And I just want to say that I have interviewed Presidents and celebrities and Nobel Prize winners and Bobby Orr, who's a big sports guy. And none of them, no one – people have not been as jealous of me as they are in that I get to talk to you.
Thank you, Malala. Ziauddin, thank you so much. [applause]