2014 Liberty Medal Recipient
Malala Yousafzai received the 2014 Liberty Medal for her continued demonstration of courage and resilience in the face of adversity and for serving as a powerful voice for those who have been denied their basic human rights and liberties.
The youngest Nobel Laureate ever, Malala was awarded the Nobel peace prize with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist, for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” The Nobel Committee said that, “despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.”
The 26th annual Liberty Medal ceremony was held Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 7 p.m. The ceremony took place at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia.
“It’s an honor to be awarded the Liberty Medal,” said Malala Yousafzai. “I accept this award on behalf of all the children around the world who are struggling to get an education.”
Ms. Yousafzai came to international attention at the age of eleven by writing for the BBC about life under the Taliban in her native Pakistan. Using the pen name Gul Makai, she often spoke about her family’s fight for girls’ education in her community. For her outspokenness, Yousafzai received the Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in 2011 and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in the same year. In October 2012, Yousafzai was the target of an assassination plot by the Taliban and shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus. She miraculously survived and undeterred by the continued threats to her life and the life of her family, continued to campaign for education. Following her attack, Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, launched the Malala Petition to demand the United Nations to recommit to Millennium Development Goal 2, which involves universal primary education for children around the world by the end of 2015. The petition, which received more than three million signatures, also helped Pakistan ratify the country’s first Right to Education bill.
“Malala’s courageous fight for equality and liberty from tyranny is evidence that a passionate, committed leader, regardless of age, has the power to ignite a movement for reform,” said National Constitution Center Chairman Governor Jeb Bush. “Her story is truly inspirational as we continue to fight for all children to have access to a quality education here in America. Let us all, young and old, strive to be like Malala—to challenge the status quo and to serve as catalysts for meaningful change.”
“As American citizens we often take for granted our First Amendment rights, including free speech, freedom of religion, and the right to peacefully assemble and protest, without fear of retaliation,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen. “Every day, around the world, individuals like Ms. Yousafzai are being threatened for asserting the same fundamental rights of speech and religious conscience that are inherent in all people. Yet she is undeterred in her quest. She is an inspiring voice for liberty across the globe.”
Ms. Yousafzai is the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and was one of four runners-up for Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2013. Addressing the United Nations on her 16th birthday, Yousafzai told the audience that “one child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” She was awarded the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Prize, which is given every five years and has previously been bestowed on such notable recipients as Nelson Mandela, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
She continues to champion universal access to education through the Malala Fund (malalafund.org), a nonprofit organization that empowers girls through education to achieve their potential and change their communities. Her memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, is a New York Times bestseller. A young readers’ version, I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World, was released in August 2014.