Good evening and thank you for being part of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 32nd Annual Evening for Peace. A special welcome to all the students with us tonight. We hope that this evening will be a great learning experience for you – both educational and inspirational.
Our honoree this year, the 70th anniversary year of the atomic bombings, is a hibakusha – a survivor of those bombings. She, like other hibakusha, has the truest perspective on the horrors caused by the atomic bombs, the perspective of being under a nuclear detonation.
Before I introduce our honoree to you, I’d like to make a few comments about nuclear weapons and the work of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to abolish them.
The atomic bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were relatively small nuclear weapons when compared with those of today. Nonetheless, they were very effective killing devices, killing 210,000 to 220,000 persons in the two cities by blast, fire and radiation by the end of 1945.
Nuclear weapons are not the friend of humanity or other forms of life. In fact, they are the enemy of all Creation. They are illegal, immoral, tremendously costly and undermine the security of their possessors.
The only reasonable number of nuclear weapons on our planet is Zero, and it is our collective responsibility to go from where we are to Zero. This has been the goal of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation since our founding in 1982.
We’ve progressed from 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world in the mid-1980s down to under 16,000 today. This is progress, but it is not sufficient. We still face the prospect of a Global Hiroshima – a nuclear war, by accident or design, which could end civilization and even the human species.
There is far too much complacency around this issue. I worry about ACID, an acronym for key elements of complacency: Apathy, Conformity, Ignorance and Denial. We must change these acidic forms of complacency to engagement by changing Apathy to Empathy; Conformity to Critical Thinking; Ignorance to Wisdom; and Denial to Recognition of the nuclear threat.
One important way we do this is through our work as a consultant to the Republic of the Marshall Islands in their lawsuits against the nine nuclear-armed countries in the International Court of Justice and in US federal court. The Marshall Islands does not seek compensation in these lawsuits. They seek only that the nuclear-armed countries negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament as they are obligated to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law.
The Foundation has helped establish legal teams to support these cases, and the attorneys working on the cases have given thousands of hours to this work on a pro bono basis. Two of these lawyers are here this evening and I’d like you to join me in recognizing them: Laurie Ashton and Lynn Sarko.
I’d also like you to join me in recognizing Dan Smith, another pro bono attorney who has submitted amicus briefs on behalf of other civil society organizations in support of the Marshall Islands.
When you support the Foundation, you are supporting the courage of the Marshall Islanders and their legal efforts to achieve a victory for all humanity.
Another way we work to shift complacency to engagement is through our project, “Humanize Not Modernize.” This project opposes the US and other nuclear-armed countries upgrading, modernizing and generally making their nuclear arsenals more usable. The US alone plans to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades on modernizing its nuclear arsenal. It will only benefit the arms manufacturers at the expense of meeting human needs for the poor and hungry and those without health care.
When you support the Foundation, you are supporting the shift from nuclear insanity to human security.
Still another way we work to combat nuclear complacency is by educating a new generation of Peace Leaders. Paul Chappell, the director of our Peace Leadership Program, travels the world teaching people the values and skills needed to wage peace. We also have a great internship program at the Foundation, led by Rick Wayman, our Director of Programs. Our interns make valuable contributions to the Foundation’s work.
When you support the Foundation, you are supporting the development and training of committed young peace leaders.
Tonight we shine a light on courageous Peace Leadership. This is the 32nd time we have presented our Distinguished Peace Leadership Award. It has gone to some of the great Peace Leaders of our time, including the XIVth Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Carl Sagan, Yehudi Menuhin, Jody Williams, Jacques Cousteau, Helen Caldicott and Medea Benjamin.
We are honored to be presenting our 2015 award to an exceptional woman, who is a hibakusha and child victim of war. She was just 13 years old when the US dropped an atomic bomb on her city of Hiroshima. She lost consciousness and awakened to find herself pinned beneath a collapsed building.
She thought she would die, but she survived and has made it her life’s work to end the nuclear weapons era and to assure that her past does not become someone else’s future. She is a global leader in the fight to prevent a Global Hiroshima and assure that Nagasaki remains the last city to suffer a nuclear attack. Our honoree is a Peace Ambassador of the United Nations University of Peace in Costa Rica, a Peace Ambassador of the city of Hiroshima, and was a nominee for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
I am very pleased to present the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 2015 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award to a courageous Peace Leader and member of the human family, Setsuko Thurlow.
David Krieger delivered these remarks at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 32nd Annual Evening for Peace on October 25, 2015.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the author and editor of many books on peace and nuclear weapons abolition, including “Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action.”