2019 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award Acceptance Speech

By |2019-10-28T11:51:29-08:00October 24, 2019|

Thank you, Hal Maynard and Sandy Jones for the beautiful song; Perie Longo for reading my poems and for her poetic response; and Dan Ellsberg, Rick Wayman, Steve Parry, Rob Laney and Mara for their kind and eloquent remarks.

Thank you also to the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation for this honor.

And thank you all for being here and making this Evening for Peace so special.

I have been very fortunate in my life to have a loving wife and family, and to have been able to do the work that mattered most to me – the work of trying to assure a human future.

When we founded the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the world was adrift in nuclear dangers. We began with no resources, only a belief in the necessity of awakening people everywhere to the dangers of the Nuclear Age – a time in which our technological prowess exceeds our ethical development.

We took a chance in 1982, and here we are nearly four decades later. The Foundation has been a steady, consistent and creative voice for Peace and a world free of nuclear weapons.

In the mid-1980s there were over 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Today there are less than 14,000.

This is progress, but clearly the job is not completed. The use of only a small percentage of these remaining weapons could end civilization as we know it and possibly the human species.

To end the nuclear threat to life on our planet, we must overcome ignorance and apathy. We must, as Einstein warned, change our modes of thinking or face “unparalleled catastrophe.”

At the Foundation we are working to create peace literate societies – societies based upon empathy, caring, kindness and overcoming fear, greed and trauma. Our Peace Literacy Initiative, headed by Paul Chappell, a West Point graduate, goes to the root causes of war and nuclear weapons. It is a profound way of waging peace.

As the next generation prepares to take the helm at the Foundation, I leave to them these thoughts, which go back to our founding:

First, peace is an imperative of the Nuclear Age. Any war can become a nuclear war – by malice, madness, mistake, miscalculation or manipulation.

Second, we must abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us. There is no doubt that this potential exists.

Third, to succeed will require extraordinary ordinary people to lead their political leaders.

I put great faith in Rick Wayman’s leadership skills. I know he will steer the Foundation competently into the future.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.” I would add, as I’m sure he would, that we must work diligently to attain this reality. That is what the Foundation does each day, and its work must continue.

It is up to all of us to assure that this happens. The future requires no less from us, and we should demand no less from ourselves.

Among the books I’ve written is a dialogue with the Buddhist leader, philosopher, poet and educator Daisaku Ikeda called Choose Hope. My hope for each of you is that you will choose hope, continue to support the Foundation, and help change the world.

I will conclude with a poem, “A Conspiracy of Decency.”

A CONSPIRACY OF DECENCY

We will conspire to keep this blue dot floating and alive,
to keep the soldiers from gunning down the children,

to make the water clean and clear and plentiful,
to put food on everybody’s table and hope in their hearts.

We will conspire to find new ways to say People matter.
This conspiracy will be bold.

Everyone will dance at wholly inappropriate times.
They will burst out singing non-patriotic songs.

And the not-so-secret password will be Peace.