TIME Person of the Year 2012: Malala Yousafzai Deserves the Honor

The year 2012 is almost over and it is time once again for someone to grace TIME Magazine’s cover as Person of the Year. As we reflect, we consider current events and those individuals who are making a difference. We consider diplomats, CEOs, leaders and advocates, but we also consider young people. After a tremendously emotional weekend spent reading about the horrors at Sandy Brook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I cannot help but feel all the more certain about the young person I believe should be TIME’s Person of the Year; happily I’m far from alone in this suggestion. Her name is Malala Yousafzai and she is 15 years old.

Yousafzai is deserving of the Person of the Year distinction for a number of reasons, some more hauntingly important after recent events. As a young person, she is an inspiration. First, she stood up for her right to attain an education, for which she was brutally attacked by the Taliban on a bus on the way home in Pakistan. She was shot in the head because those with guns were frightened by the prospect of an educated female population. Even though she was aware of the dangers posed, she was assertive when it came to her right to go to school. Here in the U.S., we reacted with shock that a young woman would be shot in her own country for simply wanting an education – a right that Yousafzai believes everyone should have.

Yousafzai was interested in becoming a doctor, but her father encouraged her to consider politics, which he believes was an avenue for creating a more progressive society with greater opportunities for future generations. As a millennial, she is a leader and an advocate for change; an inspiration to others around the world. I’m humbled that she is a member of my generation.

As Yousafzai recovers from her injury, she is still outspoken about her work to help ensure that other young women attain an education. Here, in the United States, millennials are the most educated, and widely traveled generation in history. Many have friends across the globe with whom they share as strong a bond as they do with their local neighbors – if not stronger. In a global community, stories like Yousafzai's truly resonate, as we embrace our shared dreams and vision. As we strive to contribute, lead and create change, her individual actions stand with the most powerful stories humanity has to tell.

For millennials around the world, her actions are an inspiration and a reminder of how hard it can be to follow your dreams. We should all give thanks that, many of us, do not fight for certain rights with a gun to our head. Yet, we cannot shrink from what is hard, and turn our eyes from problems whose complexities mean there is no easy answer. Whenever we think our own work is hard or daunting, we should think of her story. 

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Tarsi Dunlop

Tarsi Dunlop is a graduate of Middlebury College where she earned a BA in Political Science. Tarsi is the former Director of Operations for the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network and she works at an education non-profit in Alexandria, VA.

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