Having talked about Malala, who proved you were never too young to stand up for what you believe in, Diana Nyad shows us that you should never give up on your ambitions. A long distance swimmer who made her name in the 70s decided, in her 60s, to tackle that Cuba to Florida stretch she’d been itching to do. It would be her longest swim, she’d been attempting it since the age of 28 and no one had ever done it without a shark cage (which is a pretty terrifying caveat – not only is the distance and your body out to get you but so are some big fast bitey things. Personally, I prefer my motivation without teeth).
Diana Nyad talks with such warmth, energy and good humour that she’s now pretty high on my imaginary dinner party list. She doesn’t let you forget for a moment how hard the training and that final swim was, physically and emotionally, or how much help she had along the way. Her success was not some fairytale but the result of hard work, serious preparation, a talented team and (I think) a good dose of sheer bloody mindedness! This woman and her acheivements are legendary.
Malala has been an inspiration since she first began speaking up for a girls right to education back in 2008. Having spoken out, been persecuted for it and come back stronger than before, and all before her 18th birthday, she stands testament to what can be achieved by anyone with enough courage and the right support. She speaks often of the love and encouragement from her parents. I’d really recommend watching her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, and the trailer of He named me Malala to hear about her story in her own words and her book has been on my wishlist for a while now!
Reading about her recent GCSE results in a BBC article made me buzz with excitement. This was an inspirational story twice over. Malala achieved this success in the toughest of circumstances, recovering from the shooting in a new country, attending school with a new language and culture , while still pining for her homeland and giving frequent talks and leading campaigns to promote education worldwide. To gain such high grades inspite of all this is fantastic!
The other way of looking at this, that should lend hope to my students and anyone struggling through school, is that Malala was already meeting world leaders, speaking at the UN and being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before she even took the exams. She didn’t need academic credentials to make her voice heard and she speaks in such an articulate and powerful manner that no one questions her understanding or her age.
In short, sharing Malala’s exam results should give students encouragement that they can not only work through and overcome any challenge but that their acheivements and their contributions are not dictated by academic success. And that you should never believe anyone who says ‘that’s just how things are’.
Here are links to her Website and Facebook.