I am very honored by this award, and I accept it on behalf of all the people I work with and have struggled with to build a better world – particularly my colleagues at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
When we founded the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, we believed that we cannot sit back and wait for leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev. Such leaders – with his wisdom, vision and courage – are all too rare.
We believed that we ordinary citizens must step forward, and create the change we wish to see in the world.
My life was transformed when, shortly after graduating from college, I visited Hiroshima.
The Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima awakened me, as I had not been before, to the true extent of the dangers of the Nuclear Age.
Over the years since then, I have come to know many of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are called hibakusha. With one voice, they say, “Never again! We will not repeat the evil.”
The hibakusha understand, as few others in this world do, that nuclear weapons and human beings cannot co-exist, and that we must eliminate these weapons before they eliminate us.
That is our challenge. It is the challenge that I confront daily. It is the challenge of our time and of our generation. It is a challenge we cannot fail to accept and we cannot fail to accomplish.
I believe that each generation has a responsibility to pass the world on intact to the next generation. You might say that that is the least we can do for the future.
But for us in the Nuclear Age, this is a more difficult task than ever before. Nuclear weapons contain the potential to foreclose a human future.
If we succeed in eliminating these weapons of genocide, indeed omnicide, we will be viewed in the future as having done our part to save the world.
If we fail, there may be no future generations to remember us or to judge us.
We in the United States must press our government to stop being the greatest obstacle to nuclear disarmament. It is not in our interest, nor that of our children, for our government to cling tenaciously to these terrible weapons and even try, as it is doing now, to create new nuclear weapons for specific purposes.
Rather, the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, should, in our own interest and that of humanity, lead the way to a world free of nuclear weapons.
It is up to us to change our country and the world.
Each of us can be as powerful as anyone who ever lived. All we need to do is set our intentions and take a first step. Without doubt, a first step will lead to a second, and we will be on our way.
We are all gifted with consciences to guide us, with voices we can raise, with arms to embrace, and with feet to take a stand. These are the gifts with which the future calls out to us to act.
We must fight ignorance with education, apathy with direction, complacency with vision, and despair with hope. We owe this to ourselves and to our children.
I’d like to conclude with an excerpt from a poem in my new book. The poem is about hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it is about silence. It is called Hibakusha Do Not Just Happen, and this is the way it ends:
For every hibakusha many must contribute For every hibakusha many must obey For every hibakusha many must be silent
It is up to us to break the silence – for each other, for humanity and for the future.