Jerry White has dedicated his life to building resilience in individuals and communities affected by violent conflict. He is an activist entrepreneur known for leading high-impact campaigns, three of which led to international treaties, including the Mine Ban Treaty and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. White shares in the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. As founder of Landmine Survivors Network, he worked closely with Diana, Princess of Wales, to help thousands of war victims find peer support and job training. He wrote about how to move from victimhood to survivorship in Getting Up When Life Knocks You Down. White introduced advanced decision analytics as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, launching the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. He studied religion at Brown and Cambridge Universities and received his MBA from the University of Michigan. White is currently Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia, and co-author of a forthcoming book on Religicide: Confronting the Roots of Anti-Religious Violence.
A landmine explosion while hiking in the Golan Heights in 1984, as an undergraduate studying abroad in Israel, took away Jerry’s leg. Twenty years old when the accident happened, Jerry spent the following year recuperating in Israel, learning how to walk again with an artificial leg. A fellow survivor who had lost his leg from a minefield explosion reached out to him and said, “The challenge is in your head and your heart, not your leg.” This set him not just on a journey of self-discovery, but on a dedicated path to help people in conflict-laden communities develop resilience.
"It’s a mindset to know that your life does not have to be defined by your worst moment." Jerry said in his keynote speech at the Mendoza Graduate School of Business, University of Notre Dame, Commencement Ceremony in 2010.
Driven by a deep desire to empower survivors and his belief that individuals can rise above trauma, Jerry founded the Landmine Survivors Network (LSN) in 1995 together with Ken Rutherford, a fellow survivor of a landmine accident, as a push for an anti-landmine movement. Understanding that recovery is a long-term process beyond the immediate exigencies of a crisis, LSN offers amputees and victims access to healthcare, rehabilitation support, and vocational training. At the heart of this assistance is a community of peer support, something Jerry experienced personally on his road to recovery. Believing that the antithesis of victimhood is the opportunity to give, and that those scarred by violence are well-placed as agents of change, Jerry sought to create opportunities for survivor-leaders to provide support to others especially through public outreach efforts.
As his work grew to encompass other individuals like war veterans whose lives were marred by conflict, LSN was later renamed as Survivor Corps in 2008. Promoting capabilities and reconciliation over surrender and desolation, survivors are given opportunities to engage other individuals whose lives are affected by violence and conflict. This process takes them into the territory where they move from survivorship to leadership, which also aids their personal recovery as they reclaim their lives with dignity.
Drawing from his personal experience and decades of work with survivors, Jerry shared his philosophies on “survivorship” in his book, I Will Not Be Broken: 5 Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis, published in May 2008. A detailed account of his injury, his recovery and his work on the international campaign to ban landmines, the book (re-issued in paperback as Getting Up When Life Knocks You Down: 5 Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis) also features a collection of personal stories of fellow survivors in recovery, shining light on human resilience, inspiring others who have or are going through life-changing losses as well. Jerry’s message is clear - “survivorship and resilience can be learned”, and times of crisis offer growth and opportunity; one can learn to move through hardship and adversity with grace, by choosing life fully.
Jerry served three years as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and during that time, launched the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations created by Secretary Hillary Clinton, where he highlighted the need to break cycles of religion-related conflict and violence through collective action. He also introduced religious literacy training and data-driven analytics to develop impact strategies for conflict mitigation.
After leaving the State Department in 2015, Jerry founded and serves as the CEO of giStra (Global Impact Strategies) a data-analytics start-up which seeks to help leaders make better data-backed decisions for the pressing issues of this age like conflict and cooperation, energy and environment, health and society. He also co-chairs Global Covenant Partners (GCP), an international commitment to prevent religion-related violence and destruction through broader involvement with civic society leaders. Jerry is also a Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia where he teaches about religion-related conflicts, and the usage of data-driven approaches beyond interfaith dialogues. These involvements build upon one another, and underscore his belief that “radical inclusion” – the participation of civil society in strategic approaches – is highly crucial as we push back and break cycles of violence.
As a social entrepreneur widely recognized for his work on complex issues of peace and justice, Jerry is a Senior Ashoka Fellow who has mentored many young social entrepreneurs globally. He served as Executive Co-Chair of the Abraham Path Initiative with Founder William Ury and worked ten years as a research analyst and Assistant Director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, tracking technologies used to build weapons of mass destruction.
Jerry holds a bachelor's degree in Judaic Studies from Brown University, an MBA from the University of Michigan, and Honorary Degrees from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Caledonia University Glasgow. He has engaged in graduate work in theology at Cambridge University.