There is a certain privilege in living long enough to witness, first hand, history being made by courageous people. In my own three-score and thirteen years I have met and interviewed civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, human rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, and President Harry S. Truman to name just a few. Those iconic figures all shared one exceptional human quality -- the audacity to confront evil and to prevail.
And now I add to the honored list of heroes the name Katelyn McKensie Campbell. At the tender age of 17, Katelyn has entered the pantheon of those rare individuals who stare wickedness in the face, expose it for its wretchedness and defeat it despite inviting danger and even death for their singular bravery.
In this tribute to Katelyn, I am reminded of the young Pakistani woman, Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old student and women's-education activist who was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban simply because she wanted to attend school. That happened in Pakistan last October. Katelyn's act of fearlessness occurred earlier this month in Charleston.
Caught in a hostile environment initiated by her high school principal, Katelyn dared to reveal publicly the rapaciousness of a right-wing Christian speaker, not unlike the Taliban, who spewed shibboleths about teenage sexuality, "slut-shaming" female students in a school assembly at George Washington High School. For speaking out -- exercising her First Amendment rights -- Katelyn came under fire from her school principal who threatened to jeopardize her meritorious scholarship at famed Wellesley College. Refusing to be intimidated, Katelyn continues to denounce, publicly and rightfully, the principal's irresponsibility for inviting the abstinence-only speaker and blocking offended students from leaving the assembly. What is more, in an injunction brought against the principal, Katelyn makes clear that the principal apparently violated West Virginia law by failing to include comprehensive reproductive health education as part of the health education curriculum while, at the same time, promoting an abstinence-only agenda.
Like her famed and valiant compatriots in the annals of history, young Katelyn has made a huge difference for us in West Virginia. Let us never forget her bravery. Let it never be forgotten that in one brief, shining moment, Katelyn Campbell made us all proud.
Rabel, a West Virginia native, is an author and Emmy Award winning broadcast journalist who lives near Charleston.