Brave Malala contrasts starkly with shutdown dolts

It was fantastic to see PRWeek's inaugural Communicator of the Year Malala Yousafzai doing the rounds of national media this week to promote her book I Am Malala and her continuing campaign for girls' rights to education.

It was fantastic to see PRWeek's inaugural Communicator of the Year Malala Yousafzai doing the rounds of national media this week to promote her book I Am Malala and her continuing campaign for girls' rights to education.

She is a natural communicator and charmed everyone she met, including packed crowds at the 92 Y in New York City, hardened journalists such as Christiane Amanpour, and even the old cynic himself, Jon Stewart, who was literally lost for words when he interviewed Malala and jokingly asked if he could adopt her.

She may not have won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, but she surely will sometime in the future. Her magnanimous response was to tweet words of congratulation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which did win, praising it for its “wonderful work for humanity.”

Typical Malala - and typical of the transparent, authentic, honest approach to communicating that has wowed most of the world. She simply tells it like it is and lays it out there in a straightforward, easy-to-understand fashion.

Every communicator can learn from this, and at a time when America is coming to the end of a second week of government shutdown that threatens to cripple the country and its international reputation, one can only hope President Obama and John Boehner take note of the amazing example set by a 16-year-old schoolgirl.

Their cowardly and absolute refusal to communicate directly and forge a dialogue is in stark contrast to the bravery shown by Malala in much harsher circumstances. She paid with a Taliban bullet through her head, but has remained unbowed despite her horrendous experience.

Beneath the sweet personality and youthful exuberance lies a steely determination to continue her campaign for change and pursue the ambitions that were cruelly interrupted by the Taliban 12 months ago. “They thought the bullet would silence us, but they failed,” she told the United Nations.

And she told Jon Stewart what she imagined she would do if she was confronted by a Taliban gunman again: “I used to think I would hit them with a shoe, but then I said ‘if you hit a Talib with a shoe there will be no difference between you and the Talib.'

“You must not treat others with cruelty; you must fight others, but through peace and dialogue and education. Then I said I'll tell him how important education is and ‘I even want education for your children as well.' Then I'd tell him ‘that's what I want to tell you, now do what you want.'”

If only our political leaders could display some of that courage.

She told the UN Youth Assembly: “The terrorists thought they could change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear, and hopelessness died – strength, power, and courage were born.”

For those who say the problems of politicians are far more complicated and difficult than what Malala is facing, well what is more difficult than having a bullet fired through your head and dealing with an issue that subjugates half the population in your homeland?

In truth, I fear for her ultimate future. The Taliban has already said it will not halt its attempts to kill her. Malala wants to be Prime Minister of Pakistan. One can only hope she doesn't suffer the same fate as her hero and countrywoman Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007 having previously served two terms as PM of this troubled country.

But Malala's example is inspiring to anyone who is trying to communicate a message, whether that relates to politics, brands, business, or the personal.

Her authenticity, bravery, and transparency epitomize what is required for effective modern communications – and PRWeek is proud to have her as our inaugural Communicator of the Year.

Our only problem now is; how do we follow that?

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