WMU News

Nobel Laureate speaks Friday at PeaceJam event

March 21, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Nobel Laureate Jody Williams will speak on "Individuals Can Make a Difference" at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 26, in the South Ballroom of Western Michigan University's Bernhard Center.

The presentation is free and open to the public and will be followed by a question and answer period. It is being sponsored by the national PeaceJam organization's Great Lakes affiliate, which is administered through the Greater Kalamazoo United Way. PeaceJam's goal is to inspire a new generation of peacemakers around the world.

Williams, along with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to help ban and clear anti-personnel landmines. She was coordinator of the ICBL from its inception in 1992 until 1998.

During William's tenure, the ICBL's membership grew to some 1,300 non-governmental organizations in more than 85 countries and successfully spearheaded an international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines that to date, has been signed by more than 135 countries and ratified by 89 countries.

"People have this idea that land-mined fields are [marked off] with barbed wire like they are in World War II movies, but that is not how it is," Williams once told a reporter. "They put them where people go. They put them next to watering holes, along the banks of the river, in the fields. It is not realistic for people to stay out of these areas."

Williams currently is a member of the ICBL's coordination committee and serves as the organization's international ambassador as well as senior editor of its 1000-page annual "Landmine Monitor Report." She is the coauthor of "After the Guns Fall Silent: The Enduring Legacy of Landmines," which draws on two years of field research in four mine-affected countries to detail the socio-economic consequences of landmine contamination.

The Vermont native began her career teaching English as a second language in Mexico, the United Kingdom and Washington, D.C. Prior to beginning the ICBL, she worked for 11 years to build public awareness about U.S. policy toward Central America. This work included service as deputy director of Medical Aid for El Salvador from 1986 to 1992 and as coordinator of the Nicaragua-Honduras Education Project from 1984 to 1986.

William's WMU appearance is one of several activities taking place on campus this month in conjunction with a regional youth conference March 27 and 28 sponsored by Great Lakes PeaceJam. The conference is part of the broader organization's international educational program, which is built around Williams and 11 other leading Nobel Laureates who work personally with youth around the globe to pass on the spirit, skills and wisdom they embody. The year-long, ongoing leadership training program encompasses topics such as conflict resolution, tolerance and acceptance.

PeaceJam's Great Lakes affiliate serves Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan and has an office at the Greater Kalamazoo United Way. It is funded through grants from the Fetzer Institute, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Harold and Grace Upjohn Foundation, Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation and local Youth United Way.

For more information about Williams' appearance or Great Lakes PeaceJam, contact Jen Weaver at (269) 343-2524, ext. 245, or <jweaver@gkuw.org>. Information about the national PeaceJam organization is available online at <www.peacejam.org>.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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