My hero: Malala Yousafzai

The Costa-winning author Nathan Filer in The Guardian:

Malala-Yousafzai-009Never meet your heroes. That's the warning. There is a fear that the people who we have most admired from afar, will, in the flesh, be left wanting. This makes sense. We admire a person's work: their dazzling prose, remarkable oratory, effortless stage-craft, whatever. Then join up the dots in our minds, to create the whole person. Then we meet them – say, at a glittering awards ceremony – and the resentment surges: How dare you be ever-so-slightly shorter than I imagined, with canape crumbs on your chin and nothing good to say? How dare you be so human?
I've had my moments. Except then I met Malala Yousafzai. This was at the National Book awards last year. Malala had won the Non-fiction Book of the Year for her memoirI Am Malala. She took to the stage and began to speak to a crowd of gently inebriated literati. I have never had a stronger sense of being in the company of greatness. But also something better than that: goodness. Malala talked of her love of books and her belief in the power and importance of them. She spoke of her faith, of how God had chosen books as the best way to send His message to people. There was a ripple of awkwardness at that, some laughter, but not at what followed. Malala spoke eloquently and profoundly about the 57 million children across the world who still have no access to school, no chance to learn to read. “We must help them,” she told us, the room now silent. “That is what I dream: to see children reading books, and going to school, and I hope that one day we will achieve our goal, and that is my mission.”

So much has been written of this extraordinary young person, and of her achievements in educational activism and rights for women. To begin to discuss this in such a brief column would be to do her a disservice. Instead I'll settle for noting that she was ever-so-slightly shorter than I imagined, and brilliantly, inspiringly human.

More here.