Are you willing to die for your beliefs? We all like to think that if push came to shove, we'd be so nobly inclined, but the will to live is primal and strong and can crowd out any fantasies of self-sacrifice.
A willingness to risk everything for the right is what makes Malala Yousafzai's short life so remarkable.
She's the 16-year-old Pakistani teen whose courage in facing down the Taliban, even at risk of her life, on behalf of other girls is beyond measure.
Malala's refusal to die after being shot in the head by Taliban extremists for her outspoken advocacy of education for girls is a reminder that destiny cannot be defeated.
It is only right that she was nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, which was given to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. She was awarded the European Union's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and the Anna Politkovskaya Award, named after a crusading Russian journalist murdered in 2006.
Malala's story should shake us awake from our sleepwalk of mediocrity, even as we live in a nation where girls are not only permitted but expected to attend school.
If you're a teenager, Malala's experience should forever put to rest any assumption that you have nothing to offer, that only adults can change the world.
We're a young country, but we've matured to the place where the idea of women in power is no longer laughable. Yet across the world, women are an endangered species. In some places, a woman can die for even entertaining the audacious thought that God made her equal to men.
That a woman might possibly possess the ability to read, write, and think independently is not just unfathomable, it's anathema, blasphemy, even insanity.
But someone forgot to inform Malala and her father, a scholar who refused to allow his daughter's mind to go fallow because other people decide to practice a perverted form of religion.
According to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 62 million girls were not enrolled in school in 2009. Throughout Central Africa, only about one in 200 girls attends school.
Women make up two-thirds of the 792 million people in the world who can't read or write. In Pakistan, only 40 percent of women over 15 can read, compared to 70 percent of men.
Compile all the bombs and weaponry you wish, but any nation where a sizable portion of its population is illiterate is doomed.
It's therefore no wonder that the children of immigrant families who manage to reach our shores are leaving our kids in the dust academically.
There's no punishment here for attending school — which is free — and some of our children still won't go because they aren't sufficiently entertained.
Page 2 of 2 - In trying to kill an idea, the Taliban perpetuated it. Instead of notching up another victim, they created a heroine and empowered a young woman who is inspiring millions of people around the world.
Long after she is gone, Pakistanis will remember and come to appreciate Malala Yousafzai's sacrifice. Instead of making her afraid, her enemies have made her immortal.