The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked the end of a terrible war, more costly in human life than any previous war in human history. The atomic bombings also marked the beginning of the Nuclear Age, an age characterized by its immense destructive power, a power that could leave civilization in shambles.
In a mad arms race between the US and USSR between 1945 and 1990, nuclear weapons were created and tested that were thousands of times more powerful than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At the height of the nuclear arms race in 1986, there were over 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world, with humanity precariously balanced on the rim of a nuclear precipice. Today, more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, there are still more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of nine countries.
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation was created in 1982 to confront the challenges of this new era dominated by nuclear threat. Our mission at the Foundation is: "To educate and advocate for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons and to empower peace leaders." We do this in many action-oriented ways, including through our Action Alert Network, Peace Leadership Program and this Evening for Peace.
We hope that all of you with us this evening, and particularly the students, will be inspired to become Peace Leaders. We need you and the world needs you.
In this past year, the Foundation held a conference on the Dangers of Nuclear Deterrence at which we took a hard look at the myths surrounding nuclear deterrence and developed the Santa Barbara Declaration, Reject Nuclear Deterrence: An Urgent Call to Action. This Declaration was placed in the Congressional Record by Representative Lois Capps.
We also worked with the Swiss government in holding a conference at the United Nations in Geneva on the need to lower the alert status of nuclear weapons. There are still some 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. This is truly MAD.
We held another conference in Geneva this year supported by the government of Kazakhstan on the need to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force. President Clinton signed this treaty in 1996, but the Senate voted down ratification in 1999 and still has not ratified it 15 years after it was signed.
The Foundation's membership has grown to nearly 50,000. We have more than 2,500 participants in our Peace Leadership program. More than 600,000 unique viewers visit our websites annually. We have sent more than 70,000 messages on timely nuclear issues to political leaders this year through our Action Alert Network, and we’ve had some recent successes, including stopping a missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the International Day of Peace.
We have also networked with like-minded organizations throughout the world on our common goal of achieving a more peaceful and nuclear weapon-free world. In addition, 12 hardworking and committed interns from around the country have participated in many aspects of the Foundation’s work in 2011.
In all our work at the Foundation, we have taken strength from the spirit of Hiroshima and its survivors, the hibakusha. Hiroshima is more than a city. As the first city to be attacked by a nuclear bomb, it is a symbol of the wanton destructiveness of nuclear weapons. Along with the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki three days later, some 220,000 people died by the end of 1945 as a result of the two atomic bombings.
The survivors of the bombings, the hibakusha, have had an unconquerable spirit of hope and commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons. They have not only rebuilt their flattened cities and their lives, but they have taken it upon themselves to speak out so that their past does not become the future of some other city or of humanity as a whole. The hibakusha have said, "Nuclear weapons and human beings cannot co-exist." They have stood firmly for a human future, seeking the abolition of all nuclear weapons.
At the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation we share the passion, commitment and hope of the hibakusha for achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.
Shigeko Sasamori, thank you for all you’ve done. Your life and the lives of Kaz Suyeishi and Kikuko Otake, and all the other hibakusha you represent this evening give us hope and strength to persevere.
So does the life of our next honoree.
Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba
It is now my privilege to introduce Tadatoshi Akiba, the recipient of the Foundation’s 2011 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award. In his early career, he was a professor of mathematics at Tufts University and later a professor of humanities at Hiroshima Shudo University. He served in the Japanese Diet, Japan’s House of Representatives, from 1990 to 1999. He then served as the Mayor of Hiroshima from 1999 to 2011. During his 12 years as mayor, he served as the president of Mayors for Peace, and oversaw the growth of this organization from some 440 members to nearly 5,000. Under Mayor Akiba’s leadership, Mayors for Peace initiated the 2020 Vision Campaign, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons by the year 2020, and also the campaign, Cities Are Not Targets, a petition drive that asserts, “No! You may not target cities. You may not target children.” For his work for peace, Mayor Akiba has received many awards, including the 2010 Ramon Magsaysay Award, also known as the Asian Nobel Prize.
I have known Mayor Akiba since shortly after he became mayor, when I visited him in Hiroshima. I have admired his energy and eloquence on behalf of the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Mayors for Peace. He has given leadership to mayors throughout the world to take a stand for abolishing nuclear weapons. He is an honorable man who is dedicated to eliminating the nuclear weapons threat to humanity and all life.
On behalf of the Directors and members of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, I am pleased to present the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 2011 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award to Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.