Martin Luther King, Jr. said of his time, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of good people.”
Our voices and efforts can and do make a difference.
We meet this year, as we have for the past two years, in a time of war, and I think we must all ask ourselves if we are doing enough to further the cause of peace.
We just passed the 2,000 mark of young Americans dead in Iraq. And over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed.
Are we doing enough to build a peaceful world?
Our responsibility, and the reason the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation exists, is to build such a world, and create a future in which our children and grandchildren can look back on war as an artifact of the past.
One path to creating such a future is to honor those who struggle for peace, and that is what we are engaged in this evening.
Tonight we are fortunate to honor two exceptional peacemakers.
I’ve worked closely with Senator Roche for nearly a decade, and I can tell you what a truly extraordinary man he is. You have already heard from Diandra about his achievements. Let me just add that he is a deeply spiritual person, whose persistence and courage is rooted in a solid base of faith and love for humanity. Knowing that humanity is endangered by nuclear arsenals, I doubt that Doug will cease his work until that danger and the weapons themselves no longer exist.
Now, it is my privilege to introduce you to Daniel Ellsberg.
The name Daniel Ellsberg has become synonymous with courageous truth telling for the risks he took in releasing the Pentagon Papers. There was an easier route that Dan could have taken. He could have looked at the Pentagon Papers and then looked the other way. He could have said that government secrecy is necessary, even if it deceives the people into supporting an illegal war. He could have kept his high-level job as a RAND Corporation analyst at the Pentagon and lived a comfortable life with all the perks that go with high government position.
Can you imagine putting everything on the line for truth – your job, your family, your reputation, your freedom? Dan put it all on the line for truth, for democracy and, most of all, for the possibility of ending a war and saving lives – American and Vietnamese – and he did it with the expectation of losing his own freedom.
Daniel Ellsberg is a Harvard Ph.D. with an exquisite mind. He is one of the brightest people I know. As a young man, he was a cold warrior, who after graduating from Harvard College volunteered for the Marines and served as a Marine Corps platoon leader and company commander. This is the background of the man who chose to reveal the government’s own secret findings about the Vietnam War to the American people.
In becoming a whistle blower, Dan helped strengthen the roots of democracy and end a terrible war. He also helped bring down a presidency built on deception and misconduct. Dan’s courage and the illegal reaction of the Nixon administration, helped bring about Mr. Nixon’s early retirement, under duress, from the presidency.
For releasing the Pentagon Papers, Dan was placed on trial on 11 felony counts that could have resulted in more than 100 years in prison.
The government’s case against him was dismissed when Nixon’s “plumbers” were caught breaking into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. In this way, Dan was spared growing old in prison. Rather, he has stayed young by devoting himself to governmental accountability and continuing to work for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons. His award-winning memoir on Vietnam and the release of the Pentagon Papers, Secrets, is a book that all Americans should read.
In his early career, Dan Ellsberg focused on nuclear weapons dangers. In addition to his ongoing efforts for government transparency and accountability and his encouragement of potential whistleblowers, he continues to analyze and to speak out on nuclear dangers.
Daniel Ellsberg is a courageous and dedicated leader for peace. He is a true American hero. It is a privilege to present him with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 2005 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.