In the first episode of his new Netflix talk show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, David Letterman resisted the urge to ask Barack Obama directly about Donald Trump. Similarly, the 45th president did not come up during the former Late Show host’s chat with George Clooney.
But when he sat down with Malala Yousafzai for the show’s third episode, premiering this Friday on Netflix, he decided to go there.
“What do you think about President Trump?” Letterman asked the 20-year-old activist and Nobel Prize laureate late in their hour-long conversation. It was a question many viewers wish he had posed to Obama.
Instead of answering him, she turned the question around. “Well, I’m in the UK, so what do you think about him?” she asked, deftly, raising up her hands in surrender.
Letterman laughed, telling her, “I have many things to say on this topic. And you want me to be candid, right?”
“I believe… oh, boy,” he continued, cautiously. “I feel personally, not politically, but personally, he is not fit to represent me. I don’t think he’s fit to represent anyone in this room.”
From there, Yousafzai joined him, zeroing in on Trump’s proposal to bar all Muslim immigrants from entering the country.
“I know, a ban on Muslims! And I’m a Muslim,” she said. “Some of the things have really disappointed me, things about sexual harassment and a ban on Muslims and racism. You see all these things and you feel that America, being known for human rights and a country of liberty and freedom, that country should be leading in terms of human rights.”
Letterman noted that the United States likes to think of itself as “the greatest country in the world,” but in order to make that true, “You have to lead in all of these areas that are now being sullied. And you’ve got the car in reverse if you’re doing that.” Perhaps sensing that his guest wanted to move on, he then asked, “By the way, do you drive?”
Another illuminating moment in the new episode came when Letterman joined Yousafzai at Oxford, where she is currently studying — and serving as a very famous tour guide for prospective students.
“Would you ever want to hold a political position?” Letterman asked the Philosophy, Politics and Economics major as they browsed the University shop.
“Me? No,” Yousafzai said, letting out a modest laugh, despite the fact that former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto studied the same track at Oxford. “We have lost a woman leader,” she said of Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007. “She’s an inspiration and she told women, not just in Pakistan, but around the world that they can be leaders.”
Asked if there will ever again be a female leader of a Muslim country, Yousafzai answered, “I think definitely,” adding, “Very soon, I hope so.” But then she issued an important reminder for Letterman. “Not just Muslim countries, I think for all countries, even in the U.S., you still don’t have a woman president.”
“We’ve all noticed that,” Letterman deadpanned.
As funny as Letterman managed to make his conversation with Yousafzai, it inevitably turned more somber when he brought up the attempt on her life by the Taliban that turned her into an internationally recognized heroine in 2012 when she was just 15 years old.
“To me, things like this don’t happen by luck, there’s a purpose here,” Letterman told her. “Do you feel that way?”
After a pause, Yousafzai said, “I think there might be, but even if there isn’t, you yourself can make a decision. And when I woke up and realized I had survived such a brutal attack, and I saw death so close, I realized that maybe this life is for a purpose.”
“And I decided I’ll give this life to girls’ education and speak out for them. And give it a purpose,” she continued. “Because we have to die one day, so why don’t we do good and do as much as we can to help others?”
Now that’s the type of profoundly selfless sentiment we could use more of from our leaders.