University alum Jerry White was hiking in Northern Israel with two of his friends when he wandered onto an unmarked landmine. The earth beneath him exploded, severing his right foot from the rest of his body.
“I kept thinking, ‘Where’s my foot? Where’s my foot?” White told an audience at Rackham auditorium last night.
He said as the blood flowed from his limbs, he thought “I’m watching myself die.”
Last night, White addressed an audience of about 200 students, alumni and faculty for the Ross School of Business’ 41st annual McInally lecture.
White, who earned a MBA from Ross in 2005, is a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and co-founder of the Landmine Survivors Network.
The organization, which has offices in six countries, provides landmine survivors with prosthetic limbs, jobs, and networking opportunities. The network is based on peer-to-peer support, where fellow landmine survivors counsel other survivors.
White’s lecture, titled “Survivorship: Evolution of An Organization” detailed the core values of the Landmine Survivors Network. Its goal is to, “train every survivor group in the world willing to listen.”
White urged his audience to break from the “victim mentality” in the world today.
“Raise your hands if you want to survive,” White told the crowd. Almost every hand went up in the auditorium. “How about thriving?” he asked. The audience raised their hands again.
To explain his point, White presented a list of mistakes people with a victim’s mindset make including “living in the past” and “blaming others.”
White suggested five steps to thrive, “face the facts,” “choose life,” “reach out,” “get moving,” and “give back.”
Since starting the Landmine Survivors Network, White has been an outspoken supporter for a worldwide ban on the use of landmines.
According to the Landmine Survivors Network website, landmines injure or kill about 18,000 people a year. Between 300,000 and 400,000 people are living with landmine related injures. The vast majority of these victims are civilians.
The number may come as a surprise to Americans, White said, because wars are typically fought in other countries.
White called landmines “weapons of mass destruction in slow motion.”
Soon White plans to rename the network Survivor Corps to reflect that the organization is expanding to include other victims like those of genocide or cancer.
In an interview after the speech, White said he was optimistic about the political consciousness of students at the University.
“(Students) increasingly are getting involved as global citizens,” he said.
White said both local and international issues merit attention.
“I would like to see Michigan students involved [on] both fronts,” he said.
Business school senior Dmitry Gutin said White’s lecture was “impressive,” “motivational,” and “inspirational.”
“He’s definitely an eloquent speaker,” Gutin said.
White’s speech was not without humor.
“My leg is not growing back,” White joked. “I am not a starfish.”
At the end of the lecture audience members found small foam landmines under their seats.
White said the souvenir could be used as a reminder to overcome life’s obstacles – or as “stocking stuffers for your in-laws.”
– Charles Gregg-Geist contributed to this report.