By Stephanie Dawber
On Nov. 19, The President’s Distinguished Speaker Series featured Shiza Shahid. The event was hosted in the Horace Mann Auditorium.
Shahid is 25 years old, a member of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List, TIME magazine’s “30 Under 30 World Changers” and most recently, Fortune Magazine’s 55 Most Influential Women on Twitter. She is the CEO and co-founder of the Malala Fund, a nonprofit that aims to educate and empower every girl.
The Malala Fund represents the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban for her female education campaign.
Shahid divided her speech into four inspirational lessons which included, Pursuing a Path of Growth & Recovery, You Have the Power To Change What You Cannot Accept, Living a Life of Passion, Creating By Learning, Pivoting and Innovating.
In the beginning of the presentation, Shahid thanked the educators of Bridgewater State University and admitted she felt “inspired” by them:
“I will begin by saying that I believe strongly that we are the caretakers of our combined human destiny. So whenever I speak to students, to educators, to people who are striving for a better world, I tend to look back at my own life and lessons that I have had…to help empower them, amplify their voices and bring change.”
The CEO transitioned her speech to her first lesson, “Pursuing a Path of Growth & Recovery.”
“Nothing about my origins, where I was born or my parents were born, could indicate that I would be standing here before you today,” she said.
She furthered her speech by describing her Pakistani background, and the encouragement from her parents to pursue a formal education.
At a young age, Shahid was exposed to religious extremism, violation of women’s rights, economic failure and Pakistan’s military dictatorship. Suicide bombings were becoming commonplace, and Shahid understood that her country was in “deep trouble.”
“I understood there what it meant to be a woman in the harshest circumstances in the world,” Shahid said. “The truth is, we’re all born in a particular place, we grow up in a particular way, and we take on a particular view of the world. Expanding what we know, what we believe is not always a fundamental responsibility, but a source of immense joy.”
The second lesson of the presentation featured “You Have the Power To Change What You Cannot Accept.” When Shahid was admitted to Stanford, Shahid took advantage of all the educational opportunities the university had to offer. She studied at Oxford, observed social issues, and went to Washington D.C.
During her sophomore year, Shahid watched a video she could never forget. An 11-year-old girl from Swat Valley had spoken out. Overwhelmed with feelings of accountability for this child, Shahid started a summer camp for Malala in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad.
“But from my dorm room at Stanford University while drinking my Starbucks, I found a way to empower a girl in Swat Valley. A girl who six years later become one of the most powerful advocates for women’s rights in the entire world,” stated Shahid.
The third lesson, “Importance of Living a Life of Passion” transitioned the presentation to a more somber reality of advocating for female education and the heartbreaking shooting of Malala.
“I was just a year into the job when I got a text message that made my heart stop- MALALA HAS BEEN SHOT- the message read,” said Shahid.
She describes Malala’s recovery as the “greatest miracle I will ever witness in my life.” A year after the Taliban tried to assassinate Malala, Shahid decided to quit her dream job and began the Malala Fund.
Last but not least, the fourth lesson, “Creating By Learning, Pivoting and Innovating,” Shahid repeatedly reiterated that life was to be constantly improved upon and innovation was necessary.
Malala’s story caused a “global cry” among education advocates and people all over the world. Shahid decided the best way to publicize the Malala fund was to create a campaign video with celebrities.
Finally, Shahid stressed, “Failure is not defeat, it is an opportunity to learn,” and concluded her presentation by stating, “So if you learn nothing today, I urge you to embrace your strength.”
Stephanie Dawber is the News Editor of The Comment. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieDawber or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org