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I'm actually here to make a challenge to people. I know there have been many challenges made to people. The one I'm going to make is that it is time for us to reclaim what peace really means. Peace is not "Kumbaya, my Lord." Peace is not the dove and the rainbow -- as lovely as they are. When I see the symbols of the rainbow and the dove, I think of personal serenity. I think of meditation. I do not think about what I consider to be peace, which is sustainable peace with justice and equality. It is a sustainable peace in which the majority of people on this planet have access to enough resources to live dignified lives, where these people have enough access to education and health care, so that they can live in freedom from want and freedom from fear. This is called human security. And I am not a complete pacifist like some of my really, really heavy-duty, non-violent friends, like Mairead McGuire. I understand that humans are so "messed up" -- to use a nice word, because I promised my mom I'd stop using the F-bomb in public. And I'm trying harder and harder. Mom, I'm really trying.
We need a little bit of police; we need a little bit of military, but for defense. We need to redefine what makes us secure in this world. It is not arming our country to the teeth. It is not getting other countries to arm themselves to the teeth with the weapons that we produce and we sell them. It is using that money more rationally to make the countries of the world secure, to make the people of the world secure. I was thinking about the recent ongoings in Congress, where the president is offering 8.4 billion dollars to try to get the START vote. I certainly support the START vote. But he's offering 84 billion dollars for the modernizing of nuclear weapons. Do you know the figure that the U.N. talks about for fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals is 80 billion dollars? Just that little bit of money, which to me, I wish it was in my bank account -- it's not, but ... In global terms, it's a little bit of money. But it's going to modernize weapons we do not need and will not be gotten rid of in our lifetime, unless we get up off our ... and take action to make it happen, unless we begin to believe that all of the things that we've been hearing about in these last two days are elements of what come together to make human security. It is saving the tigers. It is stopping the tar sands. It is having access to medical equipment that can actually tell who does have cancer. It is all of those things. It is using our money for all of those things. It is about action.
I was in Hiroshima a couple of weeks ago, and His Holiness -- we're sitting there in front of thousands of people in the city, and there were about eight of us Nobel laureates. And he's a bad guy. He's like a bad kid in church. We're staring at everybody, waiting our turn to speak, and he leans over to me, and he says, "Jody, I'm a Buddhist monk." I said, "Yes, Your Holiness. Your robe gives it away." (Laughter) He said, "You know that I kind of like meditation, and I pray." I said, "That's good. That's good. We need that in the world. I don't follow that, but that's cool." And he says, "But I have become skeptical. I do not believe that meditation and prayer will change this world. I think what we need is action." His Holiness, in his robes, is my new action hero.
I spoke with Aung Sun Suu Kyi a couple of days ago. As most of you know, she's a hero for democracy in her country, Burma. You probably also know that she has spent 15 of the last 20 years imprisoned for her efforts to bring about democracy. She was just released a couple of weeks ago, and we're very concerned to see how long she will be free, because she is already out in the streets in Rangoon, agitating for change. She is already out in the streets, working with the party to try to rebuild it. But I talked to her for a range of issues. But one thing that I want to say, because it's similar to what His Holiness said. She said, "You know, we have a long road to go to finally get democracy in my country. But I don't believe in hope without endeavor. I don't believe in the hope of change, unless we take action to make it so."
Here's another woman hero of mine. She's my friend, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She has been in exile for the last year and a half. You ask her where she lives -- where does she live in exile? She says the airports of the world. She is traveling because she was out of the country at the time of the elections. And instead of going home, she conferred with all the other women that she works with, who said to her, "Stay out. We need you out. We need to be able to talk to you out there, so that you can give the message of what's happening here." A year and a half -- she's out speaking on behalf of the other women in her country.
Wangari Maathai -- 2004 Peace laureate. They call her the "Tree Lady," but she's more than the Tree Lady. Working for peace is very creative. It's hard work every day. When she was planting those trees, I don't think most people understand that, at the same time, she was using the action of getting people together to plant those trees to talk about how to overcome the authoritarian government in her country. People could not gather without getting busted and taken to jail. But if they were together planting trees for the environment, it was okay -- creativity. But it's not just iconic women like Shirin, like Aung Sun Suu Kyi, like Wangari Maathai -- it is other women in the world who are also struggling together to change this world.
The Women's League of Burma, 11 individual organizations of Burmese women came together because there's strength in numbers. Working together is what changes our world. The Million Signatures Campaign of women inside Burma working together to change human rights, to bring democracy to that country. When one is arrested and taken to prison, another one comes out and joins the movement, recognizing that if they work together, they will ultimately bring change in their own country.
Mairead McGuire in the middle, Betty Williams on the right-hand side -- bringing peace to Northern Ireland. I'll tell you the quick story. An IRA driver was shot, and his car plowed into people on the side of the street. There was a mother and three children. The children were killed on the spot. It was Mairead's sister. Instead of giving in to grief, depression, defeat in the face of that violence, Mairead hooked up with Betty -- a staunch Protestant and a staunch Catholic -- and they took to the streets to say, "No more violence." And they were able to get tens of thousands of, primarily, women, some men, in the streets to bring about change. And they have been part of what brought peace to Northern Ireland, and they're still working on it, because there's still a lot more to do.
This is Rigoberta Menchu Tum. She also received the Peace Prize. She is now running for president. She is educating the indigenous people of her country about what it means to be a democracy, about how you bring democracy to the country, about educating, about how to vote -- but that democracy is not just about voting; it's about being an active citizen.
That's what I got stuck doing -- the landmine campaign. One of the things that made this campaign work is because we grew from two NGOs to thousands in 90 countries around the world, working together in common cause to ban landmines. Some of the people who worked in our campaign could only work maybe an hour a month. They could maybe volunteer that much. There were others, like myself, who were full-time. But it was the actions, together, of all of us that brought about that change.
In my view, what we need today is people getting up and taking action to reclaim the meaning of peace. It's not a dirty word. It's hard work every single day. And if each of us who cares about the different things we care about got up off our butts and volunteered as much time as we could, we would change this world, we would save this world. And we can't wait for the other guy. We have to do it ourselves.
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Nobel Peace laureate Jody Williams brings tough love to the dream of world peace, with her razor-sharp take on what "peace" really means, and a set of profound stories that zero in on the creative struggle -- and sacrifice -- of those who work for it.
Jody Williams won a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to eradicate landmines. Now she’s teaming up with five other female peace laureates to empower women to fight violence, injustice and inequality. Full bio »