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Malala On My Mind

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I’ve got Malala Yousafzai on my mind, the 16 year-old Pakistani woman who was shot in the head for taking a stand for educating women and girls. Her address at the United Nations recently got me to thinking about great acts of service to humanity. I am still thinking about the Hot Shots who perished in the recent fires, and about the work of Navy Seal Eric Greitens who after returning from Iraq in 2007, donated his combat pay to establish The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization that encourages veterans to serve in communities across America and thereby help connect them with a sense of contribution, community and purpose.

My thought connects to other great contributors, like Former President Nelson Mandela who when he emerged from so many years of incarceration, emerged as a hero, not only for his own nation but for oppressed people all over the globe. And, who for his steadfast saying yes to human rights, is known as ‘father’ in his own country, like Mahatma Gandhi was known in India. President Mandela initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights atrocities and give a voice to those who suffered, and there by starting the mending of generations of injustices.

Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. both mobilized huge numbers of people before there were cell phones and social media to assist them. I’m thinking of Mahatma Gandhi’s refusal to bend to the injustices of his time and his defiance of the British ruling that Indian nationals were not to produce their own salt, but instead purchase the salt from the British government. It was in the 30’s I believe, that he led the famed march, some 250 miles from his home to the ocean, to get salt. Upon arrival the mass of people following him discovered the salt beds had already been destroyed. Nevertheless, he bent his knee to touch what salt remained and in so doing broke the law and change the course of Indian and British history.

I’m thinking of Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize for standing up for racial equality through nonviolent means, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom he received, and the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Federal holiday in his honor and the 100’s of streets named after him and the memorial statue on the National Mall and how his name is known across the world as a symbol of service to humanity. Testimonies to the love and respect his legacy commands.

When Malala addressed the United Nations, the teenager said that she was not against anyone and neither was she there to speak against the Taliban or any other terrorist group, but instead to speak up for the right to education of every child. Those words struck a chord of recognition in me. I thought of the words of American philosopher, Ernest Holmes, who in his last public address at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California said “Find me one person who is for something and against nothing, who is redeemed enough not to condemn others out of the burden of his soul, and I will find another savior…another exalted human being.”

Heros, all of them, giving me hope and inspiring me, every time I think of them, to live a less self-centered life. And they are strongly on my mind today.

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