Betty Williams Says Protect The Innocents
Peace prize winner: Protect the innocents
By Nicole Sterghos
September 16, 2001
WEST PALM BEACH -- When
Betty Williams learned of Tuesday's terrorist attacks, her first reaction was,
And this from a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
going to lie to you and tell you I haven't been feeling very violent this week,"
Williams told about 200 South Florida high school students gathered for an
annual student council meeting in West Palm Beach on Saturday.
through this roller coaster of emotion. It's a pendulum swing from Go get 'em'
to No, we can't.'"
Williams, who won the 1976 peace prize for efforts to
end strife in Northern Ireland, said it was natural, even human, to want to
avenge Tuesday's devastating bloodshed. Even so, she said, America must avoid
meting out punishment that may harm innocent people.
"We have to remember
that when the first bomb is dropped [in retaliation], there will be young people
like you underneath it. Innocents," she said, her voice thick with an Irish
"There has to be a reaction to this. There's no way around it.
Let's hope we respond in a way that will not perpetrate on others what we have
Williams' quest for peace began 25 years ago when she watched
as a car fleeing an exchange of gunfire during the unrest in her native Belfast
ran down a mother and her three young children. She held one of the dying girls
in her arms and promised that she would fight to keep peace for future
Williams, who now lives in Florida, helped lead marches that
united Catholics and Protestants in revulsion to terrorist violence and
retaliation. Her work has won numerous international awards.
this seasoned orator who has seen her fair share of terrorist acts can't avoid
the anger and vengeful instinct over the recent attacks on American soil. She
hasn't been able to sleep, she said. She's even having a difficult time
Still, Williams said, America has to remain united. And young
people must be prepared to oppose students who may harass Arab or Muslim
"There are bullies everywhere," she said. "Your job now will
be to control that. Protect your Muslim and Arab students because they are just
as American as you are."
Williams' words resonated throughout the Palm
Beach Lakes Community High auditorium, where students responded with two
standing ovations and multiple bursts of spontaneous applause.
of moved the whole feeling from an anger feeling to more of a compassionate
feeling," said Danielle Harris, a senior at Boca Raton High School. "It was
moving."Nicole Sterghos Brochu can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6603.
Copyright © 2001, South Florida