On Monday, April 8, 2013, I met Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams. Approachable in her greeting, she gave me a wry smile when I initially addressed her as Mrs. Williams and requested that I call her Jody. Well, Jody is often described as bold, informed, unrelenting, challenging, brave and inspired. She’s also an activist, professor, leader, author and winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. She is also involved with Peace Jam , the Nobel Women Initiative and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict.
A Complicated Journey
A life of action is not a simple path to choose. Our own thoughts, fears and commitments often get in the way. If you read Jody’s book, you will learn that there were indeed risks and sacrifices along the path she chose in life.
Jody is quick to say that she is a simple girl from a small town in Vermont. It hardly seems simple to defend her brother and other kids on the playground as a child, defend her mother from her own mentally ill brother as a teenager and lobby to protect civilians in harm’s way due to land mines as an adult. Jody discovered her sense of justice and equality early in life and has been using her voice to protect others ever since.
Peace is More
Jody believes, “Peace is not just the absence of war. It’s a world with justice and equality. It’s a world where the basic needs of the majority of the people on our planet are met. If we stop spending money on war and the weapons of war, we’d have more than enough to invest in these basics of long-term peace. People should have basic housing, access to medical care, education, and work. Everyone should have clean drinking water and food to eat every day.”
Furthermore, peace is not singing kum-ba-ya beneath doves and rainbows. As lovely as those things are, when Jody envisions peace, she thinks of personal serenity. The type of serenity that is rooted in the peace that comes from knowing one’s basic life needs will be met. This type of peace is hard-won and requires thoughtful action.
Boots on the Ground
Jody believes that “each person has the power to decide if they want to be part of the change in the world.” She also said that the idea of one person changing the world is a myth. Major change happens when people band together; each doing their part in their own way. As part of the movement, we need to be less accusatory and judgemental in how and what people contribute. Sure, Jody is about peace and social justice but she also respects those who seek to change the world through other initiatives. It will take many people working on many things in order to turn this world around (healthcare, employment, environment, education, homelessness, violence prevention, etc.) It’s about having boots on the ground and building an army of care-givers for both the planet and its human care-takers.
Shine the Light
When asked what she wants her legacy to be, Jody responded “I want to be the best damned grassroots activist on the planet.” Jody has made it her life’s calling to shine the light on sources of injustice in the world. From standing up to playground bullies to protesting wars and the devices that maim soldiers and civilians alike, Jody shines a light on the dark places we would prefer not to see. More than that, she carriers her own torch into the dark and brings with it the light of the world.
When you have a moment
Jody Williams Talks Peace on TED Talk
Ms. Jody Williams, Nobel Laureate (1997), is the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which was formally launched by six nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in October of 1992. Ms. Williams has overseen the growth of the ICBL to more than 1,000 NGOs in more than sixty countries. She has served as the chief strategist and spokesperson for the campaign. Working in an unprecedented cooperative effort with governments, UN bodies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the ICBL achieved its goal of an international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines during the diplomatic conference held in Oslo in September 1997. In her capacity as ICBL coordinator, she has written and spoken extensively on the problem of landmines and the movement to ban them.