Inside Moravian
e-Newsletter of the Moravian College Campus Community 9/17/14
Williams speaks while standing on a Johnston Hall stage.

ABOVE: Activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jody Williams (far right) presented the Cohen Keynote Lecture during last week's Fall Convocation for students, faculty and staff. Photos by John Kish IV


Nobel Laureate Jody Williams Calls for 'Courageous' Peace

Renowned Activist Presents Lecture at Moravian College's Fall Convocation

Before a crowded Johnston Hall audience, as part of Moravian College’s Fall Convocation, Nobel laureate Jody Williams tackled a far-reaching list of topics, ranging from her personal views on war and peace, to the positives and the pitfalls of being a recipient of the world’s most famous and controversial prize.

As the 2014 Cohen Keynote Speaker, Williams, who proudly professed herself as a “grassroots activist,” discussed the topic, “Why do we glorify war?” The lecture marked the beginning of the College’s IN FOCUS 2014-2015 programming on the topic of "War, Peacebuilding, and the Just Society.” Additionally, Williams was presented with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters at the ceremony, conferred by President Bryon L. Grigsby '90.

At the opening of her passionate talk, Williams politely cast off her ceremonial robe, noting “I get hot. I tend to get myself into a frenzy when talking about subjects I’m very upset about.” Her honesty was on display throughout her lecture, discussing her own upbringing, the fact that she "isn't a darling of the United States," and how the Nobel Prize has made her work both easier and more difficult. Yet, the speech's central theme was Williams’ disdain for the mythologizing of history and war.

“Every country mythologizes its history in order to make the people who live in it, proud to be part of it,” Williams said, mentioning to the U.S., India, Russia and many others by name. “It is our responsibility to know what our country does in our name. It takes immense courage to not accept the official story.”

Williams noted that not falling in line doesn’t always breed popularity. “Sometimes I get sick of always being in the front line of bringing things up that are uncomfortable,” she said. “It does not win you friends.”

Additionally, many countries are also guilty of exaggerating and promoting the merits of war, Williams pointed out. “We mythologize war because how the hell would you ever get 17-, 18-, 19-year-old people … to send themselves into battle,” she said. “War is not heroic. War is mythologized to be heroic. People can act phenomenally heroic in war. There are war heroes. War itself is not heroic.”

During several moments, Williams expressed concern for returning soldiers, many of whom have physical scars, but also suffer from moral injury because of acting against their core values. This was part of Williams’ encouragement to have an honest conversation about the reality of war.

Instead of fighting, Williams championed a call for peace, which is “not a wimpy alternative,” but rather a courageous one.

“Nonviolence is not inaction,” she said. “Think about the courage of a Martin Luther King. Think about the courage of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi from Iran, who has been living in exile. (She) fights for the democratic rights of the people in her country. That’s courage. Picking up a gun and shooting people is not courageous.”

Denton-Borhaug speaks from behind a Moravian Collge podium. Grigsby smiles while greeting Nancy Cohen Engels and Martin Engels.

ABOVE: Kelly Denton-Borhaug, associate professor of religious studies, introduced Williams to the Johnston Hall audience at last week's Fall Convocation.

ABOVE: Before Williams’ lecture, President Grigsby also recognized Nancy Cohen Engels and Martin Engels, highlighting the 30th anniversary of the Cohen Art and Lecture program.

While introducing Williams, Kelly Denton-Borhaug, associate professor of religious studies and co-director of Peace and Justice Studies, challenged audience members to be like the event's speaker – because there are many similarities.

“In many ways, Jody Williams’ life and background share a lot with your lives and backgrounds,” said Denton-Borhaug, who is co-chair of this year's IN FOCUS initiative, along with Daniel Jasper from the Department of Sociology. “Renowned activists are often seen as a species apart from regular human beings. But that is not the case with this one.”

“Think about what she says, about what it takes and the skills necessary to step outside your comfort zone,” Denton-Borhaug said.

Likewise President Grigsby asked audience members to contemplate Williams’ message and determine how peace can fit into our respective lives. “We ask that all of the community, not just the students, but also staff and faculty, to grapple with the complex problems of war, peace and a just society, and examine them from multiple perspectives,” he said while providing the ceremony’s welcome. “We hope that that better prepares our students to become engines of change in a changing world."

Before Williams’ lecture, President Grigsby took a moment to recognize Nancy and Martin Engels, bringing the couple on stage. The couple funded Fall Convocation in memory of Nancy’s parents, Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen ’37, longtime residents and benefactors of the Bethlehem community. Through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Cohen, the annual Cohen Arts and Lectures Series was established at Moravian in 1984. This year marks the fifth year of the Cohen Keynote Address at the annual Fall Convocation of Moravian College, Moravian Theological Seminary and the Comenius Center.

Photo Gallery – Fall Convocation

Photos by John Kish IV, Angelo Fattore '16 and Tommy Kopetskie

Photo Gallery - Class Visit, Fireside Chat

Photos by Angelo Fattore '16 and Tommy Kopetskie

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