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Rachel Peters

Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 12:00 am

Before I heard Malala Yousafzai speak, I thought every child in the world went to school. Here in America, education is a right, not a privilege. Malala had to fight, and even risk her life, to go to school. Martin Luther King Jr. also risked his life for his cause. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malala Yousafzai can inspire us to use our voice to stand up for what we believe in.

Malala Yousafzai's journey all started with a blog. The BBC asked a Pakistani schoolgirl to blog about her life under the Taliban rule. Another girl volunteered, but her parents intervened, saying that it was too dangerous. Yousafzai's father volunteered Malala. Malala wrote about her life under Taliban rule, attempts to take over their valley and her views on promoting education for girls.

On Oct. 9, 2012, Malala was shot in the head, neck and shoulder. She was returning home from school when the Taliban boarded the bus and shot her. She remained in critical condition in the days following the assassination attempt. As soon as she recovered, she began speaking out again, talking with more people about her education, and education rights for all the children of the world. Malala spoke to the U.N., who named the event Malala Day. She had an audience of over 500 people from all around the world.

Malala spoke to the U.N., saying, "Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and girl who have raised their voice for rights."

This reminds me of Martin Luther King Jr. He dedicated his life to helping African Americans fight Jim Crow laws. In his "I Have a Dream" speech, he said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Malala Yousafzai chose not to become silent. I think Martin Luther King Jr. would have been very supportive of Malala. He felt strongly about equal rights for everyone, just as Malala did.

Malala didn't really understand why education was important until the Taliban took it away from her. Martin Luther King Jr. said "There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular. But he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right." Malala must have known it was time.

Because of Malala, a fifth-grade girl from across the world can understand what is happening to schoolgirls in Pakistan. When I understand what is happening to schoolgirls in Pakistan, when I listen to Malala speak, I feel as if she were another girl at my school. She makes me feel like she is a real person, not just a historical figure. I can imagine talking to her about books I've read, or my favorite subject in school. I think Malala is extremely effective, and sometimes funny, when she speaks.

One of these times was on ("The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"). Stewart asked her how she felt when she realized the Taliban had made her a target. She responded, "I started thinking about that ... and I used to think 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: 'That Malala 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 that much cruelty and that much (harshness), you must fight others through peace, and through dialogue and through education.' Then I said: 'I'll 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.'"

Martin Luther King Jr. felt the same way about how to stand up to oppression. He said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

The Taliban do not want girls educated because they know education would give women power. Malala and I agree that education is important for everyone. Even so, I don't know if I would be able to stand up to the Taliban if I were put in Malala's position. I would be scared of losing my life, and never seeing my family or friends again.

I think we all have a lot to learn from Martin Luther King Jr. and Malala Yousafzai. They were each one person, but they had the courage to speak out for what they believed in. Through Martin Luther King Jr. and Malala Yousafzai, I have learned that although I only have one voice, I can make it a strong one.

Rachel Peters is the fifth grade's first-place winner in the 2014 Art Raab Memorial Essay Competition. Peters attends Larson Elementary, where her teacher is Mrs. Shlader. Students wrote on the theme: "Take a world event and talk about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would react to that event."

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