Activist Kelly to speak at Simpson

by Allison McNeal & Katie AnthonyStaff Writers

Peace activist Kathy Kelly has protested for peace in Iraq. She has traveled to Gaza in a time when most others were doing everything they could to leave the country. She has stood at the side of soldiers as they filled out their draft cards. Now, on Monday, April 6, she will come to Simpson College to tell students that they can make a difference as well.

Kelly, the co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, will be sharing her experiences with students April 6 at 7 p.m. in Camp Lounge. This will be the second time she has spoken at Simpson.

Professor of Management Marilyn Mueller is acquaintances with Kelly through a non-profit organization in Des Moines and helps host her when she is working in the area.

According to Mueller, Kelly is an extraordinary person and a powerful speaker.

“I think the thing that impresses me the most about Kelly is how she appears to be unafraid to personally experience the conflict that we have in this world,” Mueller said. “She might be afraid, but she goes to these places and tries to talk to the people who are being affected by war or injustice.”

Kelly has devoted her life to speaking and using civil disobedience to protest violence around the world. Shortly after graduating from Loyola University in 1974, Kelly started to participate and direct nonviolent direct action teams. Kelly’s first protest was in 1980 after then-President Jimmy Carter re-initiated the draft.

“Several of us were arrested in the late summer for singing peace songs inside Chicago’s main post office while young men were filling out the registration forms,” Kelly said. “We were also encouraging them to nonviolently resist draft registration and promising our support.”

As co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Kelly has a strong belief as to how the military war should be against other countries.

“We believe that the military should be abandoned and that the best way to defend ourselves is to learn usage of nonviolent means,” Kelly said. “This often means learning to live in fair and just relationships with other people, showing that we don’t want to control their resources or consume them at cut-rate prices.”

Through this campaign, she has organized 70 delegations to visit Iraq between 1996 and 2003. Her most recent protest took place in Gaza.

Kelly’s actions, however, do not go unnoticed by law enforcement.

“When we plan a nonviolent direct action, one or more of us often commit civil disobedience, and so I have spent considerable time in courts, jails and prisons,” Kelly said.

However, Kelly is continually inspired to keep doing her protests due to the children that are affected, and in some cases killed, due to military violence.

“The children in our world, many of them hungry and homeless, need adults to act rationally, redirecting resources to meet human needs and environmental challenges,” Kelly said. “I believe that we should never practice child sacrifice. The majority of people killed in wars today are civilians, and when children become traumatized, bereaved, maimed or displaced by war, they are being punished even though they committed no crime.”

Mueller said that she hopes students and faculty will attend this event to hear Kelly speak.

“We can always learn from someone who’s been someplace meaningful and experienced world events,” Mueller said. “Regardless of one’s own political views, students can take away something from her speech and realize what messages are important in life.”

Freshman Jessica Volk said that she is looking forward to hear Kelly speak.

“I don’t know much about her, but from what I’ve heard, her actions are really admirable,” Volk said. “I’m excited to hear her speak. It should be really interesting. She’s definitely an inspiration.”

Kelly hopes to inspire those around her when she speaks and engages in protests.

“By engaging in nonviolent direct action, I hope to inspire onlookers as well as people who agree with our beliefs but who feel reluctant to exercise free speech,” Kelly said. “I want people to feel confident when they recall that the U.S. Constitution says: Congress shall make no law to abridge the right of people to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance.”