Finding Hope in the Tragic Shootings of Trayvon Martin, Malala Yousafzai

Two bullets have the potential to change the world. One pierced the heart of Trayvon Martin on a rainy night in Florida early last year; the other penetrated the head of Malala Yousafzai on Oct.9, 2012. Trayvon died the night he was shot, while Yousafzai recovered from critical condition to triumphantly address the United Nations last week. It is my hope that Ms. Yousafzai’s passionate speech can help transform the conversation about equality, justice and education. Let me explain.

Education is the universal equalizer. Providing high quality education for all the world’s children is a conversation the US and the rest of the world should have started long ago. This is especially true after horrific shootings to two innocent teenagers on different continents. However, I believe something positive can be achieved by studying what led to Martin’s death and what goals Malala has in life.

In both cases, the victims were profiled as troublemakers. Martin’s pursuer singled him out for his appearance, location and the color of his skin. Members of the Taliban shot Yousafzai in the head and neck when she was returning to her Pakistani home on a school bus. She was shot for publicly stating her views on the importance of education for girls. Neither Trayvon nor Yousafzai were real threats to the public, and neither deserved their fate.

Last week, at the United Nations Youth Assembly on “Malala Day,” Ms. Yousafzai, in a soft, powerful voice, delivered the speech I wish Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman could have heard prior to the night of Feb. 26, 2012. Her words should be a call to action to ensure all children have a chance to grow up and reach their full potential as adults. Heartbreakingly, Martin never will have that chance.

“So here I stand … one girl among many,” Yousafzai said. “I speak not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise my voice not so I can shout, but so that those without voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights; their right to live in peace; their right to be treated with dignity; their right to equality of opportunity; their right to be educated.

“I do not even hate the Taliban who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion that I learned from Muhammad-the profit of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha.

“This is the legacy of change that I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of non-violence that I have learnt from Gandhi Jee, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa…

“Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future. So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are the most powerful weapons.

“One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”

Any action plan to address a more peaceful future and eliminate unnecessary shootings, we must address education first. It is the key to sharing the world’s resources and finding solutions to intractable problems, such as poverty, hunger, disease, hate, prejudice, illiteracy and the like.

This nexus of these two violent and hate-filled acts occurring to a 17-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl must be used to alter the course of our future for the better. As Benjamin Crump, the Martin family’s attorney, said after the verdict was read in Sanford: “Trayvon Martin will forever remain in the annals of history next to Medgar Evans and Emmet Till as symbols for the fight for equal justice for all.”

Education is an antidote for hatred, prejudice, ignorance and inequality. Let us make it the number one priority going forward. This construct will honor the shortened life of Martin and underscore the value of Yousafzai’s words.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.


  1. Can someone please tell me why AG Holder is using funds to pay for professional protest signs to protest the death of a criminal?  AKA : Martin in FL. and across the nation?

    And is this backed and approved by the president?

    Sad state of affairs if this is true.

    Josh print the truth and do your homework. Tell me where the funds are coming from?

    If this is true, may God help us all because the state will sit on their hands rather than protect those that riot in our cities and don’t say a damn thing.

    Give Oakland another reason to to riot! Not that they need one!

  2. Mr. diSalvo, once again, your prejudices do you a disservice and your ignorance of the facts of George Zimmerman’s trial an even greater disservice. Although many in the media and many ‘activists’ have done much to paint George Zimmerman as a racist and to convince the public that Trayvon Martin’s death was motivated by racism. However, no material evidence has, to date, been produced to substantiate such claims. In fact, to the contrary, there is significant evidence that George Zimmerman was anything BUT a racists. On Jan. 8, 2011, he testified in a public forum on behalf of an African-American homeless man who had been beaten by the son of a white Sanford police officer. In that forum he stated, “I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white,” Zimmerman said during a 90-second statement to city commissioners at a community forum. “It should not and cannot be enforced in the gray for those who are in the thin blue line.”

    It was George Zimmerman’s testimony which, in part, led to the arrest of the son of a Sanford police lieutenant and the firing of then-Chief of Police Brian Tooley. At the time, Zimmerman also demanded that Tooley’s pension be repealed.

    While many liberals may question the source, Zimmerman’s participation in this process is a matter of public record and was reported in the Associated Press as well.—153600155.html

    It’s very easy for you to describe Trayvon Martin’s death as a hate-filled act, but you present not one shred of evidence to support the assertion. Nor was the special prosecutor able to do so, despite what noted Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz described as an overcharged case. He also observed that her actions and performance ought to see her disbarred, that her affidavit of probable cause for the arrest warrant was “if not perjurious, completely misleading” and adding that “She violated all kinds of rules of the profession, and her conduct bordered on criminal conduct. She, by the way, has a horrible reputation in Florida. She’s known for overcharging, she’s known for being highly political. And in this case, of course she overcharged… She was among the most irresponsible prosecutors I’ve seen in 50 years of litigating cases, and believe me, I’ve seen good prosecutors, bad prosecutors, but rarely have I seen one as bad as this prosecutor, [Angela] Corey.”

    Furthermore, there is not one shred of evidence to prove that George Zimmerman initiated contact with Trayvon Martin in any way. In fact, much evidence exists to the contrary. The only injuries he had were his broken nose and cuts on the back of his head. He had no offensive wounds of any kind – abraded or lacerated knuckles, for instance – and, conversely, Trayvon Martin DID have these injuries. (

    Finally, many have suggested – or explicitly stated – that the use of deadly force was not merited in this case. However, a key eye witness in the trial, John Good stated, that he saw someone matching Trayvon Martin’s description at the time of the incident on top of someone matching George Zimmerman’s description and punching him (Zimmerman) MMA style. This testimony was consisted with Martin’s offensive wounds, George Zimmerman’s injuries, and with Zimmerman’s own statement.

    It is accepted as a point of law that such an assault can be considered to be deadly force – particularly when pavement is involved – and that in those circumstances, it is the pavement which is classed as the ‘deadly weapon’. For those who might be inclined to argue the matter, I submit that Brian Stowe might have some very strong opinions in the matter. By corollary, George Zimmerman used an acceptable level of force to defend himself from an unprovoked attack involving force which met the legal standard for ‘force likely to cause great bodily harm or death’.

    So, to summarize:

    1. Trayvon Martin, not Zimmerman was almost certainly the primary aggressor in the incident.
    2. George Zimmerman is, just as certainly, not a racist.
    3. There was never a valid case to prosecute George Zimmerman
    4. George Zimmerman acted appropriately and within the bounds of case law, state law and the constitution when he used deadly force to defend himself from Trayvon Martin’s assault.

    In the future, Mr. diSalvo, perhaps you will examine your own prejudices and take some time to obtain some honest-to-God facts before you choose to take finger to keyboard and opine. Your article, while consistent with the narrative race panderers such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have promulgated, is easily disproved with not much effort and some quality time with Google and such fallacies and prejudice detract from the very meaningful and worthwhile message which Malala Yousafzi has to communicate to the world.

    • After World War 2 the United States entered into treaties with defeated axis powers that stipulated we would provide them with a military, in exchange for not having a military of their own.  Japan and Germany are perfect examples of this.  We also invested in their economies as well, which helped fuel our prosperity after WW2.

      This was done because the allies did not want to end up in WW3.  The U.S. was the best choice to fill this role because we had the manufacturing capabilities.  We accepted the burden, yes we benefited from it, but we are obliged at the behest of the rest of the world to do what we do.  We have the biggest military in the world because that’s what the world asked for.  Contrary to radical leftist opinion, we are not an imperialist nation, and it takes a very broad stretch of the imagination, and definition of the word to even think so.  I’m not really sure what you’re trying to insinuate but I get the feeling I don’t like it.

  3. Where is the evidence that the shooting of Trayvon Martin had anything to do with “hate?” Trayvon Martin is dead because Florida law allowed a somewhat goofy police officer wannabe to carry a gun. Martin’s death was senseless, but people die senselessly every day. Obviously, education is extremely important, but George Zimmerman went to school. People often do stupid things, no matter how highly educated.

  4. > Martin’s pursuer singled him out for his appearance, location and the color of his skin.

    This is NOT supported by the trial record, nor by the FBI’s pre-trial investigations.

    This is merely the relentlessly repeated narrative of the crazy fever swamp racist left.

    People who make up things should NOT be allowed to teach children, not to mention being entrusted with leadership positions in institutions of public education.

  5. Joseph,

      I’m a little shocked that you are drawing a comparison of Trayvon Martin R.I.P.,and George Zimmerman against Malala Yousafzai, and The Taliban.  First of all I don’t have much of an opinion on that whole case I didn’t follow it that closely, but I know one thing for sure is that you’ve stretched the similarities here pretty thin.
        The Taliban targeted Malala for speaking out against an oppressive religious extremist group that wanted to impose fundamental Islam law on people living under a sovereign nation.  She had written about it, and she was not profiled.  She was a trouble maker.
        Trayvon, was, if I may assume, a knuckle-headed kid who did get profiled as a troublemaker, maybe even for being black, only George Zimmerman really knows.  But that’s not the meat and bones of this article Joseph, and I’m a bit disappointed that you used these events to launch this vessel into the open water.  The answer to why I am disappointed is simple.  Malala Yousafzai’s experience in her culture is not relevant, much less comparable to what children, including Trayvon Martin, experience in American culture.  Especially as it relates to girls and women, and boy’s and men.
        In poor countries like Pakistan, any education at all is typically highly valued, and not squandered, and it becomes especially important for the development of the country to educate their young girls so that they can become economic contributors, as well as support their families should anything happen to the male providers.  Her speaking out against the Taliban was heroic.  Under Taliban rule women can barely leave their own home let alone get an education.  In Afghanistan foreign clinics treat men first, children second, and women last because of the rigid roles the Taliban impose on men and women.  If the man is sick and hurt and dies, he cannot work, and his whole family suffers. This is why they are treated first before the children and women.  They are the sole providers.

    You state: 

    “Any action plan to address a more peaceful future and eliminate unnecessary shootings, we must address education first.

    As much as I agree with the importance of education, I respectfully disagree with you.  I disagree because of one glaring commonality that is presented in the Trayvon Martin case.  That is, that his parents were divorced.  Who knows how this situation would have ended if Trayvons parents were still together, or he had been living in a more stable home than what his single mother could provide.  Do I need to cite all the statistics about the education achievement levels of children from two parent households vs. those living with only a single parent.  Or how the majority of America’s prison inmate population come from homes where they are raised by single mothers?  I’ll get into it if you want but there are other issues you never address Joseph. 

      Besides marriage, divorce, and single parent homes,what about the growing achievement gap between girls and boys.  Girls are outperforming boys on nearly every level.  This is across the board, in all ethnic groups, and familial marital statuses.  It is even more worrisome than the racial achievement gap you talk about all the time.  There is a bigger problem here and it stems from the state, and trickles down into the school.  I know it’s part of your job to trumpet for education, but claiming education is the caveat to defeat violence and bigotry and hatred… well that just sounds uneducated to me.

  6. Mr. diSalvo,

    The FBI has already investigated George Zimmerman with respect to allegations that he was a racist and that the shooting was motivated by racial bias. Their conclusion was that neither allegation is true.

    What are your credentials as an investigator and what special information do you possess that permit you to draw a conclusion so contrary to that drawn by expert investigators and law enforcement professionals?

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