“When was America great? Part of our history is true, part of our history is mythologized,”
Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams speaks at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit for the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies' Peacemaker Awards. Photo by Miriam Marini.

Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams gave a speech at Wayne State’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies’ Peacemaker Awards on April 2 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit.

Williams was awarded the Global Peacemaker Award for founding the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of over a thousand nongovernmental organizations working to ban antipersonnel landmines.

Williams said she went into this line of work because of her empathetic nature.

During her speech, Williams said her history as a lifelong activist made her rethink the history of the United States and question President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.

“When was America great? Part of our history is true, part of our history is mythologized,” she said. “Whenever the nation creates history, it wants to make itself sound magnificent. Our nation was born on genocide.”

Williams addressed civil responsibility and the importance of never giving up in the current political climate.

“If you give up, what are you? Nothing,” she said. “If you stand by and let the other guy bully any group, whether it’s kids in first grade or your governor or the Donald, if you let people like that sow hate and make us believe that we are different, then mind you, we are complacent,”  

Williams said throughout history, there has been hypocrisy in the way the U.S. addresses the issue of immigration.

“Whenever it is useful to this country, we’re very happy to have people from Mexico and Central America come in and pick our crops,”

Williams said the 2016 presidential election was a time of despair for her as an activist.

“I get up in the morning and I say, ‘What did Donald do today?’ There’s always something.”

The Community Peacemaker Awards were presented to John Hartig and Rev. Barry Randolph.

Hartig is the refuge manager for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and has received multiple awards over the last 30 years for his work as a limnologist.

Hartig is also an accomplished author. His most recent book, "Bringing Conservation to Cities," won a gold medal from the Nonfiction Authors Association.

Randolph was recognized for his transformation of the 143-year-old Church of the Messiah. His vision brings faith to a younger crowd with a congregation that is currently made up of 60 percent African American males under the age of 30.

Randolph said he attracts the youth by being “a different type of preacher,” and making religion appealing to them.

“The young people don’t reject God; they reject the package that church put God in,” he said.

The Church of the Messiah also attracts a young crowd by engaging members in community service projects to help the neighborhoods surrounding the church.

“Young people are attracted to movement,” he said. “[They] want to become part of something greater than themselves.”

Randolph said the church is filled with entrepreneurship, and it offers multiple trade workshops to equip members of the congregation with practical skills, including video production and woodwork.

The Lifetime Peacemaker Awards were presented to Bernice Kaplan and Dr. Stanley Levy.

Kaplan, a cultural anthropologist, was recognized for her dedication to WSU’s anthropology department over the last 50 years and her contribution to the CPCS through her research on inter-cultural understanding.

Levy is a physician, humanitarian, activist and an expert in the peace-related theories of Albert Einstein. His recent work includes sending vitamin C to India and Western Africa as preventative measures for the tuberculosis and Ebola epidemic.

Levy said Trump’s rejuvenation of the coal industry is negative for the environment and for the health of the general public.

“The president is doing something terrible as far as our environment is concerned,” he said.

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