After my sons left for their first day of school this morning, I was thinking about what our dinner conversation would be. Then I realized that baseball and band practice will take the place of a formal family dinner tonight, so I’m planning an afternoon snack conversation instead. What topic could I bring up that was appropriate and thought-provoking for the first day of school – especially for my oldest who started high school today?

Then I saw this, and my question was answered.

The young woman in the video is Malala Yousafzai. In October of last year, the Taliban shot then 15-year-old Malala in the head and neck on her way home from school in Pakistan. It wasn’t a random shooting. She was specifically targeted because she had spoken out for women’s rights and education for girls. One of the ways she spoke out was through blogging.

When I read about Malala’s attack, before it was clear if she would survive or not, I couldn’t breathe. I was acutely aware that she was shot because she does something that I do every day and because she wants the same rights that I take for granted. I was in awe of this young woman’s courage, and I prayed for her recovery. The fact that less than a year after her shooting she has recovered and is being just as courageous as she was before her shooting fills with me joy.

This is what will be the table conversation today: Malala’s courage and her words about pens, books and reading. We’ll discuss her assertion that “pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism,” and her personal challenge to read thousands of books to “empower herself with knowledge.”

I know I usually advocate no technology at the table, but I think an exception can be made to bring a laptop or tablet to the table to show this video so you can discuss it. If your kids are old enough to grasp these concepts, I think this is the best back-to-school dinner (or afternoon snack) conversation starter I’ve ever come across.

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