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“Thank Heaven For Little Girls” is one of the numbers from the 1958 musical “Gigi,” the story of a rebellious young woman whose ultimate victory is to win a proposal of marriage from a young man who initially wants her to be his mistress. Such was the state of womanhood in the ‘50s.

Malala Yousafzai is the Pakistani girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban for going to school, and for advocating for education for girls. Her ultimate victory could have been simply survival, but her fight has just begun and so the story of her ultimate victory has yet to be written.

She made that clear on her 16th birthday when she addressed a special session of the United Nations. I’m sure you heard about it, and probably heard a clip or two of her speech. You can still see the evidence of the wound on her face, but you can’t hear it in her voice or her words.

Or maybe you can. She speaks with a depth of passion, clarity, wisdom and compassion that may come from confronting death face to face. She was a girl with the courage to go to school in the face of deadly bigotry and ignorance. Now, she is a young woman with the courage to stand before the world and forgive her attackers while still giving them notice that they will not win.

I am convinced that when historians look back on the 21st century, they will call it the Century of the Woman. I don’t know how we got to where we were in the 1950s, but I celebrate the progress women have made toward the goal of becoming full and equal partners and acknowledge the work that still needs to be done both here at home and around the world.

Our mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, aunts and nieces are every bit as intelligent and capable as our fathers, brothers, sons, uncles and nephews. In many ways, I think women are better suited to leadership roles than we are. While the list of their attributes and qualifications is long, as one example, women tend to be more collaborative. Do you think Congress would be as dysfunctional as it is if there were 433 women and only 102 men in the House and Senate instead of the reverse?

Big picture, men have done an OK job running the world. (It ain’t the Middle Ages anymore.) But I think when women assume their full and rightful place at the table and men welcome them there without fear or resentment, the world will be a more peaceful, prosperous place.

Thank heaven for women!