Featured: Malala Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin / Credit: John Russo, The Guardian
In the spirit of thankfulness, I wanted to share this letter I originally wrote a year ago to Malala Yousafzai in honor of her Nobel Peace Prize win and inspired by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai’s, 2014 TED Talk. Today, I dedicate this piece to my own father in honor of his birthday and his ever-adamant refusal to clip my wings:
Back in October 2012, my dad called shortly after the news broke of your attack and asked if I had heard about you. Annoyed, I said, “Papi, you know I don’t watch the news anymore.” At the time, I was on a serious spiritual development path, strictly limiting my intake of world events since the beginning of the year. My radical and desperate need to unplug and detoxify was brought on by years of severe addiction to every news media outlet. Frustrated, he responded: “How can you live in such a bubble? I can’t understand how you haven’t heard of Malala by now!” “Who is she?” “Look her up,” he answered.
When I learned your story, that you had survived and were recovering in England, my spirit soared. I couldn’t believe it. I cried out and cheered you on as you progressed over the following months. “What an incredible human being! She is here for a reason,” I often thought. I gingerly plugged myself back into the media stream but only to tune into your journey. Soon, you appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and recounted how after you learned of the Taliban’s threat on your life, you would think about what you would do or say if they really came after you:
I started thinking […] that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But, then I said, “If he comes, what would you do, Malala?” Then, I would reply to myself, “Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.” But, then, I said, “If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that […] harshly. You must fight others, but through peace and through dialogue and through education.” Then, I said, I will tell him how important education is, and that “I even want education for your children, as well.” And I will tell him, “That’s what I want to tell you. Now, do what you want.”
My jaw dropped with Jon and everyone listening to you that day. Since then, I have striven every day to find that same love and compassion for everyone I meet, as well.
Though our backgrounds are different, we actually have much in common, especially our fathers who championed our education. My father was raised by a single mother in poverty-stricken Mexico City in the early 40’s. He grew to understand the importance of education and raised my two younger sisters and I to be strong, educated, independent women. He also named me after his mother.
When your father took to the stage last year at TED 2014, he spoke of people asking what he did to make you so successful. He responded, “Don’t ask me what I did – ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings.” I watched his speech with my father, and with tears streaming down our cheeks, he wrapped his arms around me, saying: “That’s exactly how I feel. No clipping of no wings! If anything, I wanted to give you extensions so you could fly faster.”
My hope is that this extraordinary measure can be replicated in every home and in every classroom. You are most certainly doing your part, and I vow to beat my wings right along with you. The flights of future generations of children and of our humanity most certainly depend on it.
Onward and skyward,
Featured: Amelia and her father, Roberto / Credit: Chaveli Torres