Nobel Laureate Jody Williams on Joy

When I was a student at the University of Vermont 26 years ago ... I didn't have a clue about what I was going to do. Some of my friends did. Some of my friends came out of school, started to be teachers or lawyers or whatever and that's what they are today and they're confident and sure that that was the right thing....

I didn't even come to graduation because I didn't know what I was graduating from or to.... I went [on] to the School for International Training, where I got a degree in Spanish and English, and I went to Mexico.

I was still confused, but I was teaching English in Mexico.... And I still didn't know what I was doing, and I came back to the United States and for three years, I was a temporary secretary in Washington....

I was happy doing it because it gave me the space to figure out what I wanted to do. Then I was leafleted at a subway stop, and the leaflet said, "El Salvador: Another Vietnam?"

And that set me on the road to what I am today. Whatever that is.... I started organizing in Washington, D.C. I was a teacher.... I had a real job then that Mom could define to her friends, and in my spare time I started organizing. And the passion of doing what I considered to be the right thing captured me, and I've never looked back.

From there, I gave up my teaching job, and I started full-time organizing to stop what I thought was an incorrect war.... And from there I ended up banning land mines and receiving a Nobel Peace Prize. Who would have figured?

... [B]ut I'm still Jody Williams who didn't go to her own graduation. I'm still Jody Williams, who doesn't know what my next job's going to be....

The only thing I do know is that I still, every single day of my life, get up with joy and excitement and wonder about what am I going to do today that's going to make a difference. Nobody can define what makes a difference for you. You have to figure out what makes a difference for you.... What matters is that it gives you joy.

I firmly believe that people make the most important contribution in the world that they can make ... if it brings them joy every day.... Have the courage to try to figure out what brings you joy so through your joy you can bring it to everybody else....

* 1997 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jody Williams, in a speech at the University of Vermont on May 17, 1998.

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