Magazine Feature / People

Williams says strong beliefs bring about change

Nobel Peace laureate Jody Williams told a crowd of more than 300 DU students, faculty, staff and visiting teenagers from around the globe today that it’s not just the job of young people to bring about peace in the world.

“We all have to find our own ways in our own communities to spread peace because we all live on this planet,” Williams said.

Williams is one of 10 peace laureates attending the 10th anniversary celebration of PeaceJam, a nonprofit that pairs laureates with young people to inspire a new generation of peacemakers. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for getting 122 counties to sign a treaty banning the production and use of landmines.

She was often critical of the Bush administration in her speech at DU’s Driscoll Center, which was sponsored by the University’s Conflict Resolution Institute. When asked by a PeaceJam teen what her next project after landmines would be, Williams responded, “Get rid of Bush.” The crowd erupted in laughter.

She said the U.S. government did not want citizens to ask why the country was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Our government just wanted us to accept what they did in response—right or wrong,” she said. “We didn’t have a national dialogue in this country about 9-11, but talking about and looking at history helps us understand why people hate us.”

When an audience member asked her how she became an activist, she said it started with her brother, who was born deaf.

“Bullies used to make fun of him and I told them, in a nice way, to stop,” she said. “They did stop and I realized I was able to help, so I kept moving on to other areas where I felt I could help.”

She said believing in a cause strongly enough will eventually bring change.

Some 3,000 high school students from around the world will participate in PeaceJam. Organizers say the students will learn, through team-building games and classroom sessions with the Nobel laureates, how to make a difference in themselves and their communities. They will explore and discuss views on various topics such as violence, racism and reconciliation. Youth will also benefit from the Nobel laureates’ experience in designing community service projects.

Approximately 150 DU students will take part in PeaceJam by facilitating small groups of high school participants.

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