NAPF Chair Robert Laney delivered these remarks on October 20, 2019, at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 36th Annual Evening for Peace.
With this assignment to speak about David I feel the dilemma that others have felt in similar circumstances when trying against impossible odds to do justice to a subject too large for their talents and too large for the time allotted. I proceed.
David Krieger has played a variety of roles in my life and, I suspect, in the lives of our many friends in and around the Foundation, past and present. Many of you already know much of what follows, but please bear with me.
First, David as our visionary: Since the Foundation’s beginning in 1982 David has personified a vision of a better world than the world in which we live today — a more safe, sane, secure, just, and peaceful world — a world free of the threat that nuclear weapons pose to all of humanity. Many people, especially in the political world, have scoffed at such a vision and continue to scoff. But David, knowing the true nature of the nuclear threat and having grappled with it over many years, has never lost heart or waivered from his vision of a better world. As David has reminded us on countless occasions, peace is an imperative of the nuclear age.
Next, David as our leader: The Foundation’s 37-years-and-counting campaign to create a more safe, sane, and secure world has faced daunting odds in the powers-that-be who always resist the changes that we seek. Nevertheless throughout this period the Foundation has been able to keep its lights on, its telephones and computers in operation, and its amazing and dedicated Staff fully engaged with the challenges we face. Let me be clear: none of this would have been remotely possible without David’s steady, clear-eyed leadership and hand on the helm. I shall cite just a few examples among many:
It has been David who assembled and trained our Staff of all-stars, each of whom treats his or her responsibilities as a calling rather than just a job.
It has been David who has done the heavy lifting in fund-raising throughout this period.
It has been David who has kept the Foundation current with developments in the field of nuclear weapons policy.
It has been David who caused the Foundation to achieve consultative status at the United Nations and to play an active and influential role in nuclear weapons-related conferences at the UN in New York and in Europe.
It has been David who forged essential alliances with other NGOs and various political, social, and religious leaders around the world, some of whose names you would recognize instantly.
It has been David who has guided each Staff member in his or her personal growth as a peace activist and as an effective member of our team.
And it has been David who established our program for interns and has guided our interns not only in their contributions to the work of the Foundation but also in their personal growth as peace activists.
I could go on about David’s decisive accomplishments as our leader since 1982, but you get my drift. As an organization with an effective voice in the world, we owe our existence this evening to David Krieger.
Next, David as our teacher: Not all of us were peace activists or anti- nuclear weapons campaigners when we first met David. Some of us needed to be “brought along,” as they say, and in my case, over a period of years. I confess this as one who came from all the educational
advantages that one would expect should have taught me such things. But under David’s gentle guidance I gradually came to understand not only the gravity of the nuclear threat, but also the moral impossibility of staying on the sidelines while this threat exists. I know that some of you were more developed in this respect than I was upon first meeting David. Nevertheless I suspect that you have your own stories about how David has influenced your thinking about why and how to create a safer and more secure world. But David as a teacher has gone far beyond our circle at the Foundation. As everyone knows, David’s books, essays, and letters to editors over many years have provided the public with a rich source of education on matters of peace and security in the nuclear age.
Next, David as our brother and comrade in the campaign for a better world: Throughout my association with David and the Foundation over more than two decades, I have observed how David places himself among our team rather than over our team, offering hints, praise, suggestions, and encouragement as circumstances would indicate. Not one to feed his ego in the position of President and CEO even though he has had plenty of opportunities to do so, David has preferred to guide by soft-spoken example in the manner of an elder brother rather than as chief executive. I have always felt and appreciated David’s genuine interest in the people of the Foundation for their own sakes, as if we are all a family.
Finally, David as our poet in residence: Most of you know that David has a poetic soul. Indeed one wonders where this poetic inclination would have taken him but for his 37 years at the helm of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Look into his poetry, and you will see what I mean. This is where you will see David’s heart most clearly – the heart of one deeply in touch with humanity’s cri de coeur for a better world – a world free of war, free of mindless cruelty, and free of the threat that nuclear weapons present to all that we hold dear.
So David, as our visionary, our leader, our teacher, our brother and comrade, and our poet in residence, you have brought us farther in 37 years than we ever had a right to expect. But our journey is not over, and I for one look forward to continuing our work together in the ranks of our comrades in disarmament. May it ever be thus.