BRATTLEBORO—Nobel Peace Prize winner and Brattleboro Union High School graduate Jody Williams, an international political activist most known for her work to ban and clear land mines, will speak to the school community on Tuesday, May 17.
Williams helped launch the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in 1991. The ICBL had 1,000 international member organizations from 100 countries working on the issue. In 1997, the Ottawa Treaty, signed by 133 nations, banned land mines around the world.
For that work, Williams and the ICBL were awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1997; at the time, she was the 10th woman winner.
Born in Poultney, Williams grew up in Brattleboro, attending Green Street School. She graduated from BUHS in 1968 and studied at the University of Vermont in Burlington and the School for International Training in Brattleboro, and she earned a master’s degree in international relations at Johns Hopkins University.
She has traveled all over the world studying international conflicts and wars and working on global injustices. Though she is most strongly associated with her work to ban land mines, she has worked on other issues of human rights and global security. Her memoir, My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize, was published in 2013 and will be displayed in the BUHS library.
Williams has recently moved back to the area and is excited to speak, to inspire local youth from her hometown, and to give back to the community.
Her talk at Natowich Field begins at 10:30 a.m. She will also make visits to individual BUHS classrooms and talk one-on-one with students.
“Having someone like Jody come to BUHS helps students see how they can take issues they care about and do something,” said BUHS social studies teacher Tessa Ander, who is helping to organize the event.
The Windham World Affairs Council is helping to organize this BUHS event, along with a steering group of BUHS students.
The community nonprofit organization brings in monthly speakers to shed light on different political, foreign, economic, social, and environmental problems.
The WWAC defines its mission: “to help you better understand the issues and problems our world is facing. In this way we hope to contribute to the creation of a livable, peaceful, better world in which we are prepared to participate knowledgeably.”
The WWAC is part of a larger World Affairs Council, a global affairs nonprofit.
Lissa Weinmann, a Brattleboro resident who has volunteered for the WWAC for eight years, is helping to organize this event and is fascinated by Williams and her story.
“When she heard what landmines were doing to kids around the world, she decided to take action, and she is a born organizer,” said Weinmann, who has worked on international issues such as U.S. and Cuba foreign policy.
Williams, she said, “really knew how to talk to people and get them to come together.”
Weinmann said that Williams will encourage the students of BUHS “to find what really makes you tick — finding your passion and acting on it. It’s the idea of just taking one step at a time.”
Peace Jam launches at BUHS
With a PeaceJam program forming at BUHS for the 2022-23 school year, Williams might not be the only Nobel Peace Prize winner to visit the high school.
The program of PeaceJam, an international organization with school chapters, teaches students about Peace Prize laureates, who directly present to students and work one on one to mentor, educate, and inspire them to make a difference.
PeaceJam also connects youth worldwide and, through its foundation, works with Google to create relations across cultures with a project, One Billion Acts of Peace, which mobilizes communities to create “a thoughtful action that spreads more peace in your community, school, business or organization, and is designed to impact one or more of the Billion Acts Issue Areas that are critical to creating world peace,” according to the project website.
The PeaceJam club will help students connect with people in the community who can help turn their passions into reality, through mentorship and social action. Organizers consider the Jody Williams event an exciting kickoff to the program.
“Jody can provide a lot of inspiration for students, especially students who are struggling with the state of the world as well as difficult personal issues,” Weinmann said, noting that Williams “did not grow up in a wealthy home, and neither of her parents graduated high school.”
“So she really had to struggle to make her way in the world,” said Weinmann, who said Williams will “share with students and the community how she works to overcome obstacles in order to work together to create positive change on every level — personally, socially and globally.”