Nobel Peace Prize recipient Betty Williams addressed a packed Alumni Hall last Wednesday to discuss her crusade for peace.
David Ives, executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, introduced Williams saying she is the most impressive for many reasons.
In 1976, Betty Williams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the People’s Peace Prize of Norway for her hard work and dedication to fight violence in Northern Ireland.
In about four months, Williams went from a normal citizen, a loving housewife and mother to her children, to a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
“She is another housewife who just got sick of the violence,” Ives said. “Many people can relate to her from this point of view.”
Since moving to the United States in 1981, Williams has earned a Doctorate of Law from Yale University, and received numerous awards, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award.
Williams began her speech unlike any other speaker. She had the audience stand and asked everyone to give each other hugs.
“Arms are for hugging, better than for killing,” she said.
After such a moving introduction that relayed her passion, Williams began to speak about her motivation and the reasons she received the Nobel Peace Prize.
On Aug. 10, 1976, a getaway car carrying an IRA gunman lost control when the drivers of the vehicle was shot. The car swerved out of control, struck and killed three children and another civilian.
Williams was in a car nearby and watched the entire incident happen.
“It was like an explosion within myself. I promised I would fight from that day forward for the right for children to live,” Williams said.
As soon as she could leave the scene of the accident, Williams began petitioning. Within two days, she had 6,000 signatures from friends and neighbors demanding peace and a stop to the brutal violence.
Together, Williams and family members of the three slain children got together with 10,000 women to march through Belfast.
A week later, 35,000 women marched through Belfast, again led by Williams, to promote tolerance.
“You have to work for peace every day,” Williams said, which is why she founded the Community of Peace People.
This is an organization dedicated to ending violence in Northern Ireland.
Williams has traveled the world about 20 times visiting those nations whose children are suffering in the streets. She has held babies and mothers as they died of starvation.
“I have never lost the anger,” Williams said.
However, she expressed that she does not want to lose it either because she is using her anger to make a difference.
She is using her anger to force governments around the world to take more responsibility for their children.
In order to give the audience a better idea of the severity of this problem, Williams referenced September 11th.
“September 11th was a deep tragedy which took the lives of many innocent people,” she said.
“However, 35,615 children died on Septemer 11th throughout the world. Roughly, a child passes away from hunger every six seconds.”
For the last 14 years, Williams has been working closely with the Italian government.
Together, they are creating the first city for children, the Center of Compassion for Children. It will lay on 58 acres in Italy that were recently given to them and will essentially give children a political voice.
William hopes that by educating and empowering children to speak on their own behalf, they can use their own voice to inspire the government to pass the law for protection of children.
“I will defend those children against anyone in the world. To take the right of a child away is not God’s decision, it is man’s,” Williams said.
Williams hopes that once this city is created in Italy, governments across Europe and the rest of the world will follow and adopt policies protecting children.
After concluding her speech, Williams received two standing ovations. Members from the audience expressed the motivation and desire to create change simply by listening to her speech.
One individual asked Williams how many languages she knew since she travels and speaks to woman and children throughout the world. Williams responded that she is not fluent in many but can say thank you in 22 different languages.
Upon seeing confusion across the young mans face, Williams said, “when you work at a heart and soul level, words aren’t always necessary.”
Williams concluded her speech by tell the audience to “use anger to be productive instead of using anger to be destructive.”
Williams currently serves as President of World Centers of Compassion for Children International.
She serves on the Council of Honor for the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica and is a Patron for the International Peace Foundation in Vienna.
Williams encourages people to pay more attention to the killing and destruction and start taking an active role to benefit the greater good.
For more information about Betty Williams and her causes visit www.centerofcompasion.org.