"I trust you won't care if I take off my shoes," began Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 alongside the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Nobody objected. Williams spoke at the World Youth Peace Summit about peace and what it takes to be an activist. "Being a peace activist does not mean you love everybody," she said. "You don't have to be a peaceful person to change the world. There are plenty of things that fire me up and make me get off my ass and want to change the world." For those who cringe every time "One Love" comes on the radio, her message was refreshing. Williams said, "You don't have to be popular. I'm not popular [...] I don't care if you like me. [...] That's not my role in life."
She told the audience of youth from places as far away as New Zealand, Iraq, and Kazakhstan that activists do not have special powers, nor are they morally superior. She told them, "I'm not angelic. I swear. [...] The 'F' word is my favorite word. In addition to swearing, I like to party. [...] Life is too short to drink crappy wine." Later, she added, "There's nothing magic about working for a better world. It's getting off your butt every day." During her talk, she emphasized the importance of knowing what peace is if a person says she wants it. Williams said it's not, to her, rainbows or doves. She said, "peace is not just a world without war. [It's not] just putting the guns away somewhere." At the same time, "saying 'I like peace' is not working for change," she said, following this by expressing her belief that there is limited effectiveness to petitions. Explaining why she is working on a book about activism, she added, "I deal with activists all the time and I'm always blown away by how many don't know how to organize." She turned to the audience: "Has anyone in the room heard of human security?" No response. "If you don't have justice, if you don't have equality...you don't have sustainable peace," Williams announced. "Peace is economic justice and social justice," she said. It means that "pretty much everybody has enough to eat" and "it means a planet on which people can actually educate their children." The absence of these elements creates unrest. Williams explained that "when you have no hope it's easy to become rabidly angry at those who have everything." In her interactions with 80 or 90 countries, she said that the United States is often "seen as a massive aggressor around world." Her comment followed a similar sentiment expressed during the "Voices of Sport" panel in which it was said that the United States' involvement in and sponsorship of the Olympics is necessary because of the need to repair this country's tarnished reputation. "War doesn't work," she said. "We need to stop having the image of war as heroism. War is a complete breakdown of communication." Her next move is an international campaign to stop the use of rape as a weapon in war and conflict.
-Kerri is the author of Real Hartford
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