NEW YORK - Malala Yousafzai, the girls’ rights activist and youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, received the US Liberty Medal on Tuesday, and pledged her $100,000 award money to education in Pakistan.

The National Constitution Center, which awards the annual distinction, said Malala, 17, was awarded the prize for her “courage and resilience in the face of adversity.”

“I ask all countries all around the world: Let us say no to wars. Let us say no to conflicts,” Malala said in accepting the honour at an impressive ceremony in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to media reports.

Malala renewed her call for world peace and universal education. “No girl, no child, anywhere, anywhere in this world should be deprived of education,” she added.

“I’m honoured to receive this medal,” she said in an address peppered with jokes. “It encourages me to continue my campaign for education and to fight for the rights of every child,” she added.

She called on countries around the world to stop spending money on weapons and instead invest in their children’s futures.

“Education is the best weapon through which we can fight poverty, ignorance and terrorism. So I ask all countries all around the world, let us say no to wars.”

The Liberty Medal, established in 1988, commemorates the bicentennial of the US Constitution. Given annually, it honours “men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.” Recipients are chosen by a committee of the National Constitution Center board. Among past winners are human rights crusaders and world leaders.

Malala said she would donate her award money to improve education and support for Pakistani children. “Education is the best weapon against poverty, ignorance and terrorism,” she said.

Draped in a traditional Pakistani shawl, Malala took the stage to wild applause. She smiled appreciatively on a stage that included Pennsylvania’s first lady, Susan Corbett; Philadelphia Mayor Nutter; University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann; and Constitution Center CEO Jeffrey Rosen. “Malala’s courageous fight for equality and liberty from tyranny is evidence that a passionate, committed leader, regardless of age, has the power to ignite a movement for reform,” said Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor and chairman of the National Constitution Center. Jeb Bush is the son of former president George HW Bush and a brother of George W Bush, also a former president.

Jeb Bush said “Let us all, young and old, strive to be like Malala - to challenge the status quo and to serve as catalysts for meaningful change.”

In a video message screened at the ceremony, UN Secretary-General congratulated Malala, saying she is “one of the most admired activists of our time.”

“Malala is a brave and gentle champion of peace who through the simple act of going to school became a global teacher. She said one pen can change the world. With great courage, she has shown what terrorists fear most: a girl with a book,” he said.

Malala, 17, recently became the world’s youngest Nobel laureate. Organisers of the Liberty Medal ceremony didn’t know that would be the case when they decided months ago to honour her. But the coincidence might have been expected: She has become the seventh medal recipient to subsequently receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Previous recipients of the Liberty Medal who went on to win the Peace Prize include former South African president Nelson Mandela, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and Bono.

Tuesday’s ceremony included speeches from women with powerful stories about education, including Minnijean Brown Trickey, who helped integrate an Arkansas high school in 1957, and University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann, a first-generation college student who rose to lead an Ivy League school.

Malala said Tuesday that when the Taliban went to the Swat Valley, where she lived with her family, she had two options: not speak and wait to be killed or speak and then be killed. “Why should I not speak?” she said. “It is our duty.”

She said the Taliban “made a big mistake” trying to silence her. The day she was shot, she said, “Weakness, fear and hopelessness died, and strength, power and courage were born.”

The bullets that shattered her skull seem only to have intensified her resolve, and will echo in the words of the Pennsylvania Girlchoir, which performed Sara Bareilles’ hit song, “Brave.”

“Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out,” the Pennsylvania girls sang. “Show me how big your brave is!”

The Swat teen spent Tuesday night being honoured by dignitaries who saw her through the lens of their professions and passions. University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutman said Yousafzai underscored the importance of education.

Legal scholar Jeffrey Rosen said she mirrored the values found in the US Constitution, and ABC News Correspondent Martha Raddatz said she was a living example of the power of words and the power of a free press.


Agencies add: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office said two scheduled events on Wednesday in Toronto with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai have been cancelled.

The last-minute announcement comes amid an ongoing emergency in Ottawa, where several shootings have occurred on or near Parliament Hill.

Harper was to moderate an afternoon question-and-answer session with Malala Yousafzai at a Toronto high school. He was then scheduled to head to a downtown hotel, where the 17-year-old from Pakistan was to receive honorary Canadian citizenship.

Harper’s spokesman said both events have been cancelled. Officials in prime minister’s office said Harper was rushed away from the Parliament building and is safe in an undisclosed location.