On May 13, Yousafzai will become one of five recipients of the 2017 International Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations. NECO writes that the award is meant to “recognize individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.” While Yousafzai will not be able to attend the ceremony, she wrote the letter below to the coalition and its chairman, Nasser J. Kazeminy.
Dear Mr. Kazeminy and National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations,
Thank you for honoring me with the prestigious 2017 International Ellis Island Medal of Honor award. I am sorry I could not be with you for your ceremony, but I am still in secondary school and preparing for my final exams. However, even from thousands of miles away, I am proud to be in the company of my fellow 2017 recipients whose achievements as innovators and humanitarians are incredible gifts to the United States and our world.
Ellis Island was known as an “Island of Hope” for thousands of immigrants and refugees who journeyed to America for a chance at a new life. Today it stands as a reminder of a spirit of welcome for people in need, as well as the contributions of generations of immigrants and refugees. I wholeheartedly applaud NECO for its work to uphold these values.