Honors College

Oak View Hall, Room 210
509 Meadow Brook Road
Rochester, MI 48309-4452
(location map)
(248) 370-4450
Fax: (248) 370-4479

jody-williams

Forbes Magazine once described Jody Williams as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world. Speaking to her, you’ll quickly realize that she probably doesn’t think that matters at all, unless it is of some good to everyone. Jody Williams is a truth-teller, a believer in the power and importance of human equality, a person for whom changing the world for the better is not something that only other people can do.

We’re extremely excited and honored to celebrate Jody Williams as the inaugural Honorary Esteemed Fellow of The Honors College at Oakland University. Not only does Jody exemplify the spirit of “can do” that was in the minds of Matilda Dodge Wilson and Alfred Wilson when they provided the space and funds to found a university here, but she also shows what is possible when someone says “Hey, I’m me, and I want to make a difference.”

Alerted in the 1990s to the immense damage to human life caused by landmines left in the ground after wars have ended, Jody went on to mobilize non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to press for change. In October 1992, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) was formally launched, and with few resources and even fewer precedents, Jody began convincing over 1000 NGOs and over 60 countries to support the campaign.

Jody’s work involved speaking up where speaking up was needed, using whatever facilities she could find at her disposal, fax machines, email; and, not least, employing a sense of purpose and intention and a recognition of each individual’s human worth, wherever they might be, and whatever their circumstances. For a young person, born in the town of Rutland, Vermont, creating a global campaign of this kind was perhaps not the most likely activity! Remarkably in 1997, just about five years from the launch of the ICBL, an international treaty banning landmines was signed, supported by 122 countries (this support has now grown to over 150 countries).

In recognition of this work in the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines, Jody and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Read Jody’s Nobel lecture.

Despite such a remarkable achievement, it is not one on which Jody has at all rested. Jody Williams has been Campaign Ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, she has led a High Level Mission on Darfur for the UN’s Human Rights Council, she has served as a Distinguished Professor in Peace and Social Justice, and she has spoken out regularly, and consistently, on the real meaning of peace as an active reclaiming of human security.

In 2006, together with her fellow Nobel Peace Laureates, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Jody was instrumental in creating the Nobel Women’s Initiative. These women, including Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, Tawakkol Karman of Yemen and honorary Nobel Women’s Initiative member Aung San Suu Kyi, are from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, North and South America and Europe, but equally aim to work with others, beyond these places and beyond the initiative group, using the recognition provided by the Nobel Prize to offer their considerable influence and support – a wonderfully connected, transformative, and immensely human endeavor, advocating for peace, justice and equality.

Any web search will quickly unearth more about Jody Williams, but some things will be most obvious. It is likely you will discover that she doesn’t stand on the ceremony of names, titles, or positions. You will find that she taught English as a Second Language and was involved in Medical Aid for El Salvador, work that connected her with situations and conditions that she soon felt the need to address. As she puts it, she “had a voice and was going to use it.” You might discover too that, growing up, she thought she would become an Egyptologist, or perhaps study veterinary science. Two fields that are undoubtedly lamenting that something else caught Jody’s eye!

We celebrate here the work of Nobel Laureate, Jody Williams, Honorary Esteemed Fellow of The Honors College, a maker of a better world, a voice for peace, justice and equality.

You can see and listen to Jody here: