WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and daughter Malia welcomed schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai to the Oval Office on Friday.
Malala, 16, sat with the Obamas in the iconic office and possibly sat in the very chair that may be occupied by prime minister Nawaz Sharif when he visits the US President in a fortnight’s time on October 26. The mood then is expected to be much more intense.
In a statement from White House, the Obamas hailed Malala, 16, for her “inspiring and passionate” work on behalf of girls in Pakistan.
“The United States joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala’s courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realise their dreams,” the statement said.
“We salute Malala’s efforts to help make these dreams come true.”
Malala, who’s running mates the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were honoured by the Nobel committee for the Peace Prize on Friday, was hosted at the White House by the 2009 Peace Prize winner Obama.
Promoting freedom of education for girls, Malala sat in the Oval Office whose walls was populated by portraits of former US Presidents and bust of rights activists. These included George Washington who signed the Declaration of US Independence, Abraham Lincoln who as US President signed the Proclamation Emancipation to free slaves, and Martin Luther King Jr who championed racial equality.
The 16 year old, who survived being shot in the head and neck by the Taliban in Swat last year, shared some this violent past with the leaders. US President George Washington was shot at in 1755, but despite bullets tearing through his hat, he escaped without a wound. Abraham Lincoln was shot in the back of the head on April 15, 1865 at the Ford Theatre. Martin Luther King Jr was shot in the face and neck from distance on April 4, 1968 as he stood on the balcony of his hotel.
Obama signs Day of the Girl proclamation
Earlier on Friday, Obama signed a proclamation whereby the US formally recognised October 11 as the “International Day of the Girl” and reaffirmed the US’ commitment to girls education.
In the proclamation, Obama notes that there is a girl in an unknown country who will grow to spark the next great scientific revolution, “but only if she gets a shot at a higher education.”
“Over the past few decades, the global community has made great progress in increasing opportunity and equality for women and girls, but far too many girls face futures limited by violence, social norms, educational barriers, and even national law. “
The proclamation calls on Americans to observe the International Day of the Girl with programs, ceremonies, and activities that advance equality and opportunity for girls everywhere.