Remarks delivered at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 25th Annual Evening for Peace on November 22, 2008 in Santa Barbara, California.
Tonight marks a quarter century that the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has been holding this annual Evening for Peace. We are gathering at this 25th anniversary event at a time of renewed hope for peace.
We are honoring two extraordinary individuals – Reverend George Regas and Stanley Sheinbaum – who have together spent over a century, often behind the scenes, working for a more just and peaceful world. This evening we shine a light on their acts of peace and world citizenship, and it is our hope that their lives will inspire all of us, and particularly the young people who are here, to lives of greater compassion, courage and commitment.
Renewed hope is necessary, but it is not sufficient.
We still live in a world in which conflicts are too often settled by force rather than law, in which we spend far too much of our precious resources, human and economic, on war and its preparations.
The world’s nations are spending some $1.3 trillion annually on military preparations and war, with the United States is spending roughly half this amount. Since the beginning of the Nuclear Age, our country has spent some $7.5 trillion on nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. We are still spending some $50 billion annually on nuclear arms.
We need change in our world and, dare I say, change is coming.
One thing is absolutely certain: Nuclear weapons do not and cannot protect their possessors. They can be used to commit monstrous acts of mass murder, by a first strike or in retaliation for a preceding attack, but they cannot protect their possessors.
The only way we can be sure that we are safe from a nuclear attack is by abolishing these weapons.
This is what President-elect Obama has said: “A world without nuclear weapons is profoundly in America’s interest and the world’s interest. It is our responsibility to make the commitment, and to do the hard work to make this vision a reality.”
When he says “our responsibility to make the commitment,” I think he means all of us. I think that Barack Obama and America need this commitment from all of us. But it is up to him and to all of us to fulfill this commitment with our actions.
At the Foundation, we have developed a Nuclear Disarmament Agenda for President Obama during his first 100 days in office. We ask that he take three steps:
First, make a public commitment for US leadership for a world free of nuclear weapons in a major foreign policy address.
Second, open bilateral negotiations with Russia on a range of nuclear policy issues. We need Russia as a partner in this journey to sanity.
Third, initiate global action to convene a meeting of all nine nuclear weapons states to negotiate a new treaty for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons by the year 2020.
The proposed agenda has some additional details that can be found in your programs.
The main point I’d like to leave you with is that a world free of nuclear weapons is not an impossible dream. The genie can be put back in the bottle. The process may begin with a dream, but it continues with a politics of peace and justice. If it also increases our security, as it surely will, we are far the better for it.
I would ask you to also take three actions:
First, send the “First Hundred Day Agenda” to President-elect Obama, along with an encouraging note from you about why you want a world with zero nuclear weapons.
Second, sign the Foundation’s Appeal to the Next President for US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World and gather another 15 or 50 or 500 signatures and send them to the Foundation by early January.
Third, watch the Foundation’s DVD, “Nuclear Weapons and the Human Future,” and arrange a showing to a group you organize or that you belong to.
Let me conclude with some thoughts by General Lee Butler, a former commander in chief of the United States Strategic Command – in charge of all US nuclear weapons. General Butler became an ardent abolitionist after retiring from the military and is one of our past awardees. Referring to the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, he said, “We cannot at once keep sacred the miracle of existence and hold sacrosanct the capacity to destroy it. It is time to reassert the primacy of individual conscience, the voice of reason and the rightful interests of humanity.”
I believe that the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and each of us have an important role to play in the transformation to a peaceful and nuclear weapons-free world. Your hope, commitment, involvement and support are making and will continue to make all the difference.
Thank you for being with us; thank you for caring.