I recently finished reading two books by very different individuals who have a common goal: educating all the children in the world (especially girls, who are more likely to be deprived of an education). The books are I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun.
Malala was born into a very poor family in the Swat Valley of Pakistan while Adam was born into an upper-middle-class family in Connecticut. Their lives could hardly have begun in more different circumstances, but both realized an important truth: individuals can have a powerful impact. They didn’t need to wait for the world to change; they decided to act.
Malala, encouraged by her father (who, with much difficulty and privation, opened a school in the Swat Valley), became the voice for girls’ education in Pakistan. Adam initially followed a conventional path by becoming a consultant at Bain, although it was never a comfortable fit: he was left feeling empty and unfulfilled.
Malala and her father defied death threats to continue her education and that of other girls. They realized that educated girls could improve their own and their families’ lives and that nothing should prevent that education.
Adam, an adventurous traveler, discovered how desperately education was needed throughout the impoverished regions of the world. He wanted to create a foundation to build schools in those regions, but his parents and co-workers felt that leaving his job at Bain was too big a risk to take.
When the Taliban shot Malala, it was truly a shot heard ’round the world. Malala’s voice, which primarily had been heard in Pakistan, has now become the international voice championing girls’ education. With the aid of Shiza Shahid, Malala has an organization to raise awareness of the importance of girls’ education.
After several months of a sabbatical from Bain during which he focused on laying the groundwork for his education foundation, Adam realized that he couldn’t return to Bain. He plunged fully into his organization: Pencils of Promise.
Here are two individuals who come from very different backgrounds, but who have common goals. They want to live in ways that make a positive difference in the world by making sure that all children (but especially girls) receive an education.
As Malala states in her book, reflecting on being shot, everyone will die. What matters is how you live.