Library of Birmingham inauguration speech
Malala Yousafzai: Speech at the inauguration of the Library of Birmingham, Tuesday 3 September 2013
Honourable and distinguished guests and fellow Brummies.
Today is an important day for me to be here at the opening ceremony of the Library of Birmingham with my school head mistresses, Dr Weeks, Madam Maryam, my family, honourable guests and most importantly, the great people of Birmingham.
Thank you to Mr Brian Gambles - The director of the Birmingham Library for giving me the great opportunity to speak here on this important occasion.
It is an honour for me to be here in Birmingham, the beating heart of England. Birmingham is very special for me because it is here that I found myself alive, seven days after I was shot. It is now my second home, after my beloved Pakistan. The doctors and nurses of this town worked hard to help me recover. The teachers of this town strived to rehabilitate my educational career, and the great people of this city gave me great moral support and today’s even proves that this city loves me and I love it too.
Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to begin with my personal story. In my school in Swat, I was considered to be a good and obedient student and I also used to get top marks in my class. Apart from my school text books I read nine books from the library. Two of them were: ‘The Alchemist’ and’ Sophie’s World’. I thought I did a great job in my whole 15 years of my life.
But last year, seven days after the incident that I faced, I was brought here to Birmingham for further treatment. When I was discharged from the hospital, I was introduced to this new society, which is different from our society in Pakistan, in many ways. Here people tell me that they have read hundreds of books. It does not matter how old they are; they take a keen interest in reading, even children of six and seven years have read more books than me. Now I have challenged myself that I will read thousands of books and I will empower myself with knowledge. Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism. I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through educating not only our minds, but our hearts and our souls. This is the way forward to our destiny of peace and prosperity.
Dear sisters and brothers, Books are very precious. Some books can travel you back centuries and some take you into the future. In some books, you will visit the core of your heart and in others you will go out into the universe. Books keep ones feelings alive. Aristotle’s words are still breathing, Rumi’s poetry will always inspire and Shakespeare’s soul will never die.
There is no better way to explain the importance of books than to say that even God chose the medium of a book to send His message to His people.
This great library, which is the biggest library in Europe, has educated the people of Birmingham for decades and it will continue to enlighten future generations. As once said, a room without books is like a body without soul, and I say “a city without a library is like a graveyard.”
Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that 57 million children are out of school. We must speak up for peace and development in Nigeria, Syria and Somalia. We must speak up for the children of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, who are suffering from terrorism, poverty, child labour and child trafficking. Let us help them through our voice, action and charity. Let us help them to read books and go to school. And let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.