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Of Value is Thy Freight

Of Value is Thy Freight

Who is a woman without access to an education? She is a castaway stranded in the threatening waters of a relentless sea. On the horizon is a captivating shore that she is unable to behold, for a veil, which has been imposed on her from the dawn of humanity, conceals her haggard eyes. Impenetrable blindness overwhelms her; it tethers her to a dock of oppression and inferiority. In the patriarchal societies of many Middle Eastern nations, education is a vessel that sails freely only for males. Too often, women in such countries are left to sink in a persistent flood of inequality. It is my fervent belief that the right to explore earth’s uncharted waters has been bestowed upon all humans, and I am confident that this right is best protected in the form of educational opportunities. While these opportunities have been made more easily attainable for women of the Middle East in recent years, educational equality must be achieved in full. A nation that protects a woman’s right to an education is one that reduces her susceptibility to injustice, empowers her development in society, and ultimately promotes the progression of the human race.

The prevalence of social tyranny in the Middle East frequently subjects women to brutality and injustice of various forms. A Thousand Splendid Suns, one of the most groundbreaking literary works of the twenty-first century, chronicles the plight of Afghani women. A major protagonist in this work is the product of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy who is perceived as a menace to society from birth. She is never granted access to a public education. At the age of fifteen, she is forced to marry a man who is more than twice her age. After enduring decades of abuse, she is ultimately stoned to death for lashing out against her oppressor. Unfortunately, this woman’s story is not one that is confined to the pages of a novel. It is one that is brought to life across the globe each day. However, there is a means of escape for the women who live out this cruel reality. Exhaustive research indicates that countries with more educated women report lower rates of child/infant mortality, lessened maternal mortality, and curbed pervasiveness of sexually transmitted disorders. Women who are nurtured in knowledge are more likely to take ownership of their minds, their bodies, and their freedoms. A sense of personal dominion enables females to advocate for themselves and slowly lift the veil blinding them from the hope they are entitled to pursue.

The facilitating nature of education and the countless territories it spans instills an attitude of enlightenment in an individual, which thus elicits the desire to become a contributing member of society. Consider the remarkable accomplishments of empowered women of the past. Because of education, women have explored space, escaped poverty, become humanitarians, and made other innovations in their frontiers. What if the cure for AIDS lies in the hands of a young Pakistani girl who has never set foot in a school? What if world peace dwindles in the fingertips of an Iranian woman who has been circumscribed by her gender? The daunting waters of the world we inhabit are surely ridden with torrents of uncertainty. These torrents are matched in strength only by the infinite sea of inquisitive women who have yearned to navigate and quell stormy waters, but have been inhibited from doing so. As a result of these inhibitions, many of earth’s greatest mysteries remain unsolved.


History and literature remind us that education is a critical tool in ensuring the promise of an incandescent future. In his popular poem, “Song of Democracy,” writer and philosopher Walt Whitman asserts that education is the right by which all other rights are championed. To emphasize this theme, Whitman pens:

And these I see, these sparkling eyes,
These stores of mystic meaning, these young lives,
Building, equipping like a fleet of ships, immortal ships,
Soon to sail out over the measureless seas,
On the soul's voyage (Whitman 6-10).

Although the poem pertains directly to the American education system, these words and their meanings are universal; education is essential in fostering the overall advancement of mankind. Each and every one of us in this room has been afforded the opportunity to thrive in the broadening environment of a public school, and I ask you to take a moment and reflect upon the profound meaning that this institution holds. We come together to learn from the past and embrace the present so that we might learn to become the future. Middle Eastern nations that deny countless women the freedom we are enjoying at this very moment are generally plagued by horrendous violence, antique prejudices, and government turmoil. As the future, I propose that we educate ourselves on the issues surrounding educational inequality, as well as the impact that these issues carry. Withholding the right to an education from a group of individuals, even if it seems to us that they are halfway across the globe, hinders us all from reaching the destination towards which we sail. For in the words of Walt Whitman, a public school is more than the tiresome spelling, writing, and ciphering classes. It is more, infinitely more.



Since its inception, humanity has longed to dock upon a shore of equality, liberation, and prosperity. I believe that education is the vessel by which this harbor is reached, but the lingering disparity of women in the Middle East has anchored man’s progress too deeply in outdated and discriminatory ideals. Establishing universal education for women throughout this region will protect them from oppression and allow them to make a mark on their environments. It will be a milestone in the ongoing quest to secure human rights for all. Please join me in the mission to rescue the castaway who is stranded in her lack of knowledge. Lift the veil that masks her face and look upon her with new eyes as hers quiver open. Let her know that she is the exceedingly valuable freight carried by the store of education. Release the yoke that has bound her to ineffable transgressions as she learns to navigate the unfamiliar waters on her own.



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