The Smallest One was Madeline

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines,
lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
They left the house at half past nine…
the smallest one was Madeline.”

When I was a child, I would sit on my mother’s lap as she read to me. The books we chose ranged from those telling the tales of princes and princesses and woodland creatures to stories of ghosts and ghouls. However, the books I remember the best are the ones with bright illustrations and bold white print on the covers; the books that told the story of Madeline.

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Orphaned at a young age, the little girl lived in a French boarding school with her eleven classmates and their school mistress, Miss Clavel. Considered to be the trouble maker of the class, Madeline was always the most daring and lovably mischievous. Most of all, no matter what anyone else thought of her, Madeline was never afraid to speak her mind or defend what she believed to be right.

Looking back, I believe it was these qualities that drew me to Madeline and made me want to be like her—to the point of cutting my curly, waist-length hair into a short bob. Her intrepid boldness and spunk taught me that it’s okay to be myself, no matter what; if Madeline hadn’t been tucked in between dashing princes and innocent princesses, who knows if I’d be any of the things I am today.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from Madeline was that of leadership. For example, I am currently serving my second term as Student Council president and my third year as a section leader in our school’s marching band. As Student Council president, I interact not only with the student body and our adviser, but also with our principal and members of the community. I am also directly responsible for the outcomes of certain school events such as our blood drives and Homecoming dance. As a section leader, I help new band members become better musicians and, in some ways, better human beings. I, along with the other section leaders, teach them to do everything with passion and intensity and to convey those feelings to the audience. This job, above any other that I have held, requires patience, understanding, a willingness to push oneself and a willingness to have fun. As a leader in marching band, I must force myself to stay positive—in the same way Madeline would—to help the underclassmen and new members exert the same kind of energy as we rehearse.
Holding such highly regarded positions, I am required to possess superior leadership skills—ones that I may never have learned if my mother had introduced to Madeline.

We are living in a special time in history—one in which women are openly and strongly accepted as leaders. And as a young woman and a leader, I believe that all young girls should read or be read the stories of Madeline. Like she taught me, she can teach them that it is alright to be smart and strong in a world where women are still—in some places, at least—expected to be naive and fragile. In fact, as a leader with in my school, I like to believe that my peers and my teachers have placed me in the most esteemed positions not because of my naivete or fragility, but because of my candidness, tenacity and drive to succeed. I also like to believe that a little, red-headed girl in a blue coat and yellow hat had something to do with it as well.

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