I’m really humbled by this award and grateful for the opportunity to celebrate this evening with you. I want to start first by thanking David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and of course the board and the staff of the foundation for their long-term commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons and their work as one of the original organizations to join ICAN. I also want to give a special thanks to Jill Dexter and Diane Meyer Simon, the co-chairs of the honorary committee that put together this wonderful event tonight. It has really been a remarkable evening and it’s not over yet. I also would like to take a moment to recognize Kikuko Otake, a survivor of Hiroshima (hibakusha), for being here. It is the survivors of nuclear weapons who remind us why we’re doing this. Their human stories make us understand why this is an imperative issue. I would also like to thank California State Assemblymember Monique Limón for being here. She was responsible for the great resolution that shows that California, is supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Yay!
So working in nuclear disarmament for the last few years, means constantly finding yourself in a state of either complete terror or inspiring hope. In that sense too it’s a little bit like being a parent. But instead of young children like the two ones that I have in my home giving us near nervous breakdowns constantly it’s the two most powerful men in the world acting like children. Threats to wipe out an entire nation on Twitter: terror. A majority of states in the world, over 120, agreeing to prohibit nuclear weapons rooted in humanitarian reality and law: hope. North Korea testing a missile that could reach us in this room: terror. The treaty opening for signature a year ago and already been signed by 69 states, ratified by 19, at a record pace: hope. Over one million Americans waking up one morning to a text message saying “ballistic threat inbound to Hawaii, seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill”: absolute sheer terror. And people are beginning to wake up to the reality that we are still living under the threat of these weapons every single day.
They are starting to experience the terror of the Cold War, and it’s our job to give them hope. Following the end of the Cold War, we were promised a world where reasonable men and democratic states would slowly reduce their nuclear arsenals in an orderly fashion, until there were none left: from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty under California’s own Ronald Reagan; to START under George Bush; to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty under Bill Clinton; to the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty under George W. Bush, when he said, “This treaty liquidates the Cold War legacy of nuclear hostility between our countries”; and Obama’s soaring Prague speech calling for the end of nuclear weapons era and his support of New START as the latest treaty. But the weapons weren’t liquidated. The threat remains. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was never ratified by the Senate, and just yesterday Donald Trump confirmed plans of the United States pulling out of the INF Treaty. You know, in honesty, it would be all too easy to just blame Donald Trump as a rogue, but the truth is that a system that one impulsive or unpredictable person can uproot is not an appropriate security system in the first place. Maybe the problem is not the man, maybe it is the weapon.
Since the end of the Cold War, India, Pakistan, North Korea have become nuclear-armed states. You know, we might see Iran join them, and Saudi Arabia has said that if Iran can develop nuclear capability, they will too. The old plan has not been working. So what went wrong? Why are all these weapons still here threatening us all almost three decades on from the fall of the Berlin Wall?
It’s not the treaties. Each one has value and must be fought for, including the INF right now, but it is a fact that we forgot to actually outright reject nuclear weapons – to ban them.
Thanks to the leadership of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, one of the first organizations to join ICAN, we are seeing monumental progress in a time of great danger – hope and opportunity in this time of terror and fear. The past approach was centered around abstract concepts of security, realism about geopolitics, but they really ignore the reality that keeping these weapons around forever means that they will eventually be used again. They ignore the reality that if you say nuclear weapons are instruments of power, and they keep you safe, other nations will want to follow you. Then they ignore the reality that nuclear weapons cause humanitarian catastrophes and violate the laws of war. The mission of ICAN and our many partner organizations, including the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, was to bring those realities into the conversation about nuclear weapons.
We highlighted the humanitarian reality of these weapons. Relief organizations would not be able to send help into nuclear blast zones. As the International Committee of the Red Cross stated, “There will be no effective means to provide aid to the dying and wounded.” People will essentially be on their own. Our recent climate modeling shows a relatively limited nuclear exchange involving about a hundred nuclear weapons between India and Pakistan could result in a nuclear winter lasting two to three years. Beyond the unacceptable immediate deaths from the blast and fires, billions more around the world would die from the resulting famine. Our food system would collapse and our societies would likely follow.
We told these stories where they needed to be heard. And most importantly we brought democracy to disarmament. For decades, the non-nuclear armed states have been told that they have no say in this issue. They were told that they have no right to speak up and create laws even though many bore the burden of these weapons when they were tested, and they will all bear the burden if they’re used again. Through working with those states and negotiating the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we help those nations exercise their rights on the international stage and fulfill their obligation to protect their citizens.
The treaty was adopted by 122 states at the UN last year, bringing credible pressure to the nuclear-armed states and countries living under the nuclear umbrella. It will create even more pressure once it legally enters into force when fifty states have ratified it.
But it’s not just nation states. Local communities and individuals play a really important role.
So do we have any University of California graduates here? Gauchos? Banana Slugs? Bruins? Bears? I really have to admit I had no idea what those things meant before, but all of you UC alumni and in fact every single taxpaying California resident has a unique opportunity to effect change.
The atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were designed at a lab run by University of California. Every U.S. nuclear weapon ever tested was designed by a UC lab. Every American warhead currently deployed around the world was designed in one of those labs now co-managed by the University of California. These labs are now developing Trump’s new generation of nuclear weapons. And their current task? Make nuclear weapons that are more likely to be used, what they call more usable.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the East Bay will receive nearly $1.5 billion in 2019 from the U.S. government. Eighty-eight percent of that will be going to nuclear weapons. While they have their grants, we have our plans.
We’re targeting cities and states, businesses like right here in Santa Barbara, banks like Wells Fargo, universities, like the University of California, and we will succeed. And how do I know that?
Well, first, we have the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We aren’t just guessing this, we know this approach works because we’ve seen it happen with other weapons: biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions. Treaties, prohibition treaties, they have an impact. We know that shifting norms and changing law have a concrete impact.
We can look at examples like Textron, for example, a U.S. company that actually stopped producing cluster bombs in 2016, even though the U.S. did not participate in the negotiations for the ban of cluster bombs or have any intention of signing or ratifying it. But because the rest of the world had banned them, it suddenly became bad business.
Second, because we have partners like the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, working in this state and across the country, and have allies like all of you here. The ICAN movement has grown to over 500 organizations in over 100 countries working across generations to finally end the threat of nuclear weapons.
And third, because we’re already having historic success even without the nuclear-armed states’ administrations on board. Take California for example. In a true expression of representative democracy, the California state legislature has said that it is their role to tell their federal counterparts how to represent California on the world stage, and we are telling them to embrace the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. They passed Assembly Joint Resolution 33 to do just that and to make nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of our national security policy and spearhead a global effort to prevent nuclear war. And even more local, the L.A. City Council recently passed a similar resolution, and a Santa Barbara resolution to make Santa Barbara a nuclear free city is in the works, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has been working to make that happen.
This state and those cities will join a host of major cities around the world who are speaking up on the rational side of nuclear disarmament through the treaty. ICAN will soon be launching a new campaign for a groundswell of local action: cities, regions, businesses, all joining our cause. What happens in these communities, in these cities, in California, matters around the world. I know this because I’ve heard it directly from global decision makers.
Just a few weeks ago during the leader’s week at the United Nations in New York, people from as far away as Africa were talking about California embracing the treaty. It has motivated and inspired diplomats and leaders everywhere else in the world and your work is changing attitudes about what is possible and having a direct impact on building a nuclear weapons free world. This is really what momentum looks like, and this is democracy, and this is the impact that partner organizations of ICAN like the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation are having right now.
I know many of you here have long cared about this issue and to you I say, never sink to the unimaginable level of those who tell you that nuclear disarmament is a pipe dream, that the U.S. will never give up their nuclear weapons.Prove them wrong. And some of you, many young people and students in the crowd, never knew the duck and cover drills of the Cold War and the constant fear of nuclear attack, and to you I say we need a new generation of leaders to take up the mantle of peace so that you will never have to know those fears. You inherited a problem not of your own making. But by the same token, you can better imagine a new international security not based on the risk of nuclear weapons, because many others can’t. Don’t buy into their terror, and join us on the side of hope.
We’ve had a lot of very powerful opponents in this work, and they told us that we would never be taken seriously; we were. They told us that we would never ban nuclear weapons; we have. They told us the people would never feel secure without nuclear weapons, but the opposite is true.
Now when they tell you it is not worth trying, that the U.S. will never give up its nuclear weapons, what will you choose? To continue to live in terror, or to join us on the side of hope? You are here tonight and you are part of this Evening for Peace and you support the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, so I know your answers pretty much already. And my question for you all is then, who will you bring with you on this journey and what will you do tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day, to assure that hope will win the day? This movement really needs your passion, your talent, and your commitment.
And with that, and with partners like the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, we will end nuclear weapons before they end us.