Delivered on October 18, 2023 at The Canary, Santa Barbara, CA
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 37th Annual Evening for Peace. My name is Ivana Nikolić Hughes and I am the President of NAPF, or as I like to say, the new President of the Foundation as of last year. You see, David Krieger was President of NAPF for nearly forty years, and so I have decided that I’m going to be new for quite a while.
Thank you all for being here with us tonight – we are grateful for your presence and your support. If you have been a part of NAPF for years or even decades, thank you. If this is your first Evening for Peace, as it is mine, welcome to this beautiful community. I also want to thank Jill Dexter, our longtime Chair of Evening for Peace and Board Secretary and the rest of our Board, Sandy Jones and Hal Maynard for sharing their beautiful music with us, and Sandy Jones and Carol Warner for everything they did to make this evening possible. At the end of the program, you will also get to meet Anastasia Shakhidzhanova, a Columbia University student and NAPF intern extraordinaire.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote my remarks for tonight’s event. I had planned to say that despite all of the many troubles in our world, I was excited to celebrate peace and our 2023 Distinguished Peace Leader Prof. Jeffrey Sachs with you all. And then the horrors in Israel and Gaza began and have continued to unfold since. It is all still so raw and literally evolving in front of our very eyes. So a couple of days ago, when I looked at my not-even-two-week-old remarks, I decided that I had to put them aside and say something new, something that could speak to this moment of terror, and pain, and suffering that we have been witnessing, with widespread devastation that hits us to our core. So rather than thinking of this evening as a celebration of peace, I’d like to think of it as an expression of our yearning for peace.
Since its founding, NAPF has stood for a just and peaceful world, one that is free of nuclear weapons. It has always been our view that peace is the only way forward when the weapons we possess could destroy human civilization and possibly even all of life on the planet. This statement is not an exaggeration or a matter of science fiction or a scenario of a dystopian novel, but rather a reality we will continue to risk as long as nuclear weapons exist in our world. At a time of major conflicts, involving directly and indirectly, countries that possess thousands of nuclear warheads, truly the only path forward is peace. As Marty Hellman, whom some of you know and who sent his regrets and warmest regards to our honoree and everyone in attendance, wrote to me recently, the nuclear age needs a peace foundation!
And so tonight, as we yearn for peace, we also celebrate Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who has been yearning for peace with us and tirelessly asking for it, writing about it, and alerting all who will listen in any way that he can that the nations of the world should be coming together and cooperating to address the challenges that humanity faces, rather than fighting the wars of the past. That nations of the world should compete in athletics, and science, and music, and business, rather than on battlefields. That nations of the world should vie to outdo one another in helping those in need, rather than in creating them.
It would be impossible for me to tell you everything you should know about Prof. Sachs – the short bio in your program will give you just a taste for his impressive and illustrious career. What I will say is that not only has Professor Sachs been a true champion of peace in these deeply troubling times, but he also exemplifies one of my favorite NAPF mottos, that peace is more than the absence of war. And so, he has devoted so much of his career to projects focused on economic development, on eliminating deep poverty, on addressing climate change, and on building a sustainable world. While these are all tools to enhance peace, they are also tools to make peace. But we have to choose to use them.
I will add one more point – when I teach students in my classes at Columbia, I always like to stress all of the things that they have in common and that all of us humans have in common – that there is much more that unites us than divides us. So, in that vein, I’ll point out a couple of things that Professor Sachs and I have in common. One is that we both teach at Columbia. Two is that we both hold in our hearts the deepest hopes for the United Nations as a venue and a path towards achieving peace and the kind of cooperation amongst nations that I spoke about just a moment ago. And three is that we both – him for a while, in fact he wrote a book on this topic 10 years ago, and me more recently – thanks to Frank Bognar our wonderful Chair of the Board, deeply admire President John F. Kennedy. And so in introducing Prof. Jeffrey Sachs to you, I want to quote President Kennedy, who said in his famous commencement address at American University:
“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”
I simply couldn’t be more excited than to present the 2023 Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Distinguished Peace Leader Award to Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Please join me in welcoming him to the stage.