The lives of our two honorees, like the lives of so many other individuals in this country and throughout the world, have been deeply affected by war.
Reverend James Lawson was a conscientious objector during the Korean War, for which he spent time in prison. It helped mold his life as a leader in peace and nonviolence, and then as a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Professor Glenn Paige served as an enlisted man and officer in the Korean War and then wrote a book justifying the war. Later, he would criticize his own book and conclude there was no justification for killing in that war or any war.
For both men, the experience of war changed the course of their lives and put them on the path of peace.
One of the great myths of our time is that war creates peace. It does not. War breeds war, laying the groundwork for future wars. As Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows…. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.” As our 2007 honorees – Peter, Paul and Mary – asked in song, “When will we ever learn?”
War kills not only with bullets and bombs. It also kills indirectly by robbing the world’s people of the resources necessary for survival. As President Eisenhower emphasized in his Farewell Address, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
The world is spending more than $1.5 trillion annually on war and its preparation. While it does so, the United Nations struggles to raise the needed resources to meet its eight Millennium Development Goals: to eradicate poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and build a global partnership for development.
For only five to 10 percent of global military expenditures annually for the next five years, the world could reach the markers that have been set for these Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015. Instead, we choose to use our scientific and financial resources to build and deploy ever more powerful weapons. It is a soul-deadening exercise.
War and violence are the enemies of humanity. There is a better way forward as shown in the lives of our honorees, based on nonviolence and nonkilling.
At the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, we believe that nuclear weapons have made peace an imperative of the Nuclear Age. We must eliminate these weapons, which threaten civilization and the human future, and we must also eliminate war. That is the work of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and we need all of you to join with us to achieve our goals.
Let me give you a few relevant statistics about the Foundation. Our membership is over 37,000 people. More than 30,000 individuals participate in our Action Alert Network, sending messages to elected representatives.
Our Peace Leadership Program Director, Paul Chappell, has given over 100 talks or workshops in the past year to high schools, universities, churches, activist organizations, and veterans groups throughout the country. There are over 2,100 people now in our Peace Leadership Program.
Some 700,000 people have visited our WagingPeace.org and NuclearFiles.org websites in the past year. Our Sunflower e-newsletter is distributed to tens of thousands of people worldwide.
We are intent upon breaking down the walls of ignorance, apathy and complacency that surround issues of nuclear weapons and war, and replacing them with new and abundant energy and commitment directed toward peace and human survival. This is the responsibility to future generations demanded of those of us alive on our planet today.
With six hard-working and talented staff members and dozens of volunteers, including our dedicated Board, our distinguished Advisors and Associates and our enthusiastic and competent college interns, we are committed to building a safer and saner world. We educate and advocate to abolish nuclear weapons, strengthen international law, and empower new generations of peace leaders.
Let me conclude with three short quotations from three giants of the 20th century.
Albert Camus, an existential philosopher and Nobel Laureate in Literature, said, “I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions."
Albert Einstein, the great scientist and humanist who changed our understanding of the universe, said, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the driving force behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
It is in the creative tension between words and actions that we must seek to fulfill our dreams. May we never lose hold of the dream of peace. May we choose hope and find a way to change the world. May we each do our part to pass the world on intact to future generations.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.