2013 Humanitarian of the Year Dinner

Nader Daoud '16

“I’m not supposed to tell you this… but I fight with my brothers,” said Malala Yousafzai when asked what she did during her free time, “They tell me, ‘Malala, you say that you have forgiven the Taliban. Why won’t you forgive us?’” The crowd burst into thunderous applause and heartfelt laughter multiple times as Ms. Yousafzai engaged with over 100 people during the dinner’s Q&A session.

The Humanitarian of the Year Award Dinner in Winthrop House’s dining hall was filled with Harvard students, faculty, and affiliates eager to honor both Ms. Malala Yousafzai and Dr. Junaid Khan. The dinner began with opening remarks made by Harvard Foundation intern Rahim Mawji ’15, followed by a welcoming from the Harvard Foundation’s director, Dr. S. Allen Counter. After thanking both supporters of the event and the honorees, Dr. Counter introduced Winthrop House Master Prof. Ronald Sullivan Jr. Prof. Sullivan commended Ms. Yousafzai for her bravery, determination, and precociousness.  In his address, he voiced a thought that prevailed in the minds of all those in attendance that evening: “I can’t wait to see what you do next.” Harvard undergraduates Rabiya Ather ’15 of the Pakistani Students Association, Graham Topol ’14 of Winthrop House, and Asmaa Rimawi ’14 of the Harvard Islamic Society then delivered their individual tribute speeches highlighting how Ms. Yousafzai and her actions have affected them personally. Common to all of their words were senses of awe and inspiration stirred by Ms. Yousafzai’s passion for women’s rights and education. Dr. Junaid Khan, the physician who was being honored for his instrumental role in saving Ms. Yousafzai’s life, echoed praise for her in his subsequent address. He said, “The greatest thing for me, is to see Malala here alive and recovering.”

The night then reached its apex as Ms. Yousafzai took the podium to begin her Q&A session. Questions ranged from lighthearted ones, such as “What is your favorite school subject?” and “Will you apply to Harvard?” to introspective inquiries, “Who inspires you?” and “How do you think girls perceive themselves differently as they grow older?” Ms. Yousafzai effortlessly entertained and enlightened the crowd simultaneously. Though she said she loves all subjects, her absolute favorite is physics, and she intends to apply to Harvard when she begins the college process. As for her inspirations, Ms. Yousafzai named Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and “all of you, all of you have qualities that inspire me as well.” In response to the final question, Ms. Yousafzai shared a personal thought of hers “God, when he chose whom to give the right to give birth to a new life, he asked, ‘Who has the power? Who can do it?’… He decided that only powerful people could do it. That is why he chose women; he did not choose men.” As the room filled with claps and laughs, Ms. Yousafzai quickly added, “I don’t want say it… I want equality… but women are more powerful than men… but still I believe in equality!” Having charmed everyone present that night, Ms. Yousafzai retired as Senior Admissions Officer Mr. David L. Evans closed the dinner with a few more remarks and one final congratulatory standing ovation for the honorees.