Honoring the bravery of a girl who refused to be denied an education – and nearly paid for it with her life – 1,400 guests gathered Tuesday night under a white tent and tight security at the National Constitution Center to bestow the 2014 Liberty Medal on Malala Yousafzai, 17, the youngest recipient of the quarter-century-old prize.
Draped in a traditional Pashtun shawl of her native Pakistan, Yousafzai took the stage to wild applause.
“I thank the people, and especially the children of Philadelphia, for their warm welcome and their love and support,” she said, draping the red, white, and blue ribbon of the gold medal around her neck.
Touching a hand to her heart, she smiled appreciatively on a stage that included Susan Corbett, wife of the governor; Mayor Nutter and his daughter, Olivia; Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania; and Jeffrey Rosen, Constitution Center chief executive.
Yousafzai called for spending money on books, not guns, and said she was speaking up for children caught in crises in such places as India, Syria, Nigeria, and Gaza. “We cannot become a generation lost,” she said.
“I ask all countries all around the world: Let us say no to wars. Let us say no to conflicts.”
She said she would donate the award’s $100,000 prize to improving education and support for Pakistani children.
“Together we are stronger than fear, oppression, and terrorism,” she said. “History does not descend from the sky; it is we who make history. One book, one pen, one child can change the world.”
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Malala Yousafzai awarded Liberty Medal