When Ordinary People Achieve Extraordinary Things Jody Williams believes extraordinary things can happen when ordinary people decide to take action. Her own activism led to a 1997 international treaty banning landmines and to a Nobel Peace Prize.
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When Ordinary People Achieve Extraordinary Things

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When Ordinary People Achieve Extraordinary Things

When Ordinary People Achieve Extraordinary Things

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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in the power of love.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe...

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe in the dignity...

Unidentified Man #2: I believe that everyone...

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in people.

Unidentified Man #4: This I believe.


For our Monday series, This I Believe, we have an essay from Jody Williams. She shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work as founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

In the early 1980s, Jody Williams was not on track to a Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, she was working for a temporary employment agency. Leaving a subway station one day, she was handed a leaflet about global activism, which provoked her to change the direction of her life. That decision, that affirmation of the potential of individual action, still guides her. Here is Jody Williams with her essay for This I Believe.

Ms. JODY WILLIAMS (Essayist): I believe it's possible for ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things. For me, the difference between an ordinary and an extraordinary person is not the title that person might have but what they do to make the world a better place for us all.

I have to idea why people choose to do what they do. When I was a kid I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I did know what I didn't want to do. I didn't want to grow up, have 2.2 kids, get married, the whole white picket fence thing. And I certainly didn't think about being an activist. I didn't even really know what one was. My older brother was born deaf. Growing up, I ended up defending him, and I often think that that is what started me on my path to whatever it is I am today.

When I was approached with the idea of trying to create a landmine campaign, we were just three people in a small office in Washington, DC, in late 1991. I certainly had more than a few ideas about how to begin a campaign, but what if nobody cared? What if nobody responded? I knew the only way to answer those questions was to accept the challenge. If I have any power as an individual, it's because I work with other individuals in countries all over the world. We are ordinary people. My friend Jemma from Armenia; Paul from Canada; Kosal, a landmine survivor from Cambodia; Haboba from Lebanon; Christian from Norway; Diana from Colombia; Margaret, another landmine survivor, from Uganda; and thousands more. We've all worked together to bring about extraordinary change.

The landmine campaign is not just about landmines. It's about the power of individuals to work with governments in a different way. I believe in both my right and my responsibility to work to create a world that doesn't glorify violence and war but where we seek different solutions to our common problems. I believe that these days daring to voice your opinion, daring to find out information from a variety of sources can be an act of courage. I know that holding such beliefs and speaking them publicly is not always easy or comfortable or popular, particularly in the post-9/11 world. But I believe that life isn't a popularity contest. I really don't care what people say about me, and believe me, they've said plenty. For me, it's about trying to do the right thing even when nobody else is looking.

I believe that worrying about the problems plaguing our planet without taking steps to confront them is absolutely irrelevant. The only thing that changes this world is taking action. I believe that words are easy. I believe the truth is told in the actions we take. And I believe that if enough ordinary people back up our desire for a better world with action, we can, in fact, accomplish absolutely extraordinary things.

ALLISON: Jody Williams with her essay for This I Believe. Williams almost always speaks extemporaneously, but she obliged us by writing down her beliefs for our series. We hope you might do the same. To find out about submitting an essay, please visit our Web site, npr.org, or call (202) 408-0300. Incidentally, this weekend you can find an essay from Maria Jose Perez(ph) of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in USA Weekend magazine, our print partner. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.


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