This message was delivered to the First Annual Student Movement for Nuclear Disarmament Conference at Soka University of America on November 17, 2012.
I want to congratulate you for organizing this conference and for bringing together students to form a movement for nuclear disarmament. It is a much needed effort. As someone who has worked for nuclear weapons abolition for most of my adult life, I believe firmly that the involvement of students is necessary for achieving the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world.
You did not create nuclear weapons, but you have inherited them, and they will remain a threat to your future for so long as they exist. Thus, your awareness, your engagement and your voices are critical to your own future as well as to the future of your children and grandchildren.
Nuclear weapons are illegal, immoral and costly. They do not make their possessors safer or more secure; they only assure that their possessors are targets of some other country’s nuclear weapons.
If the most powerful counties in the world behave as though nuclear weapons are useful to them, as they do, they assure that other countries will seek nuclear weapons for themselves. Thus, the possession of nuclear weapons encourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries.
The more nuclear weapons proliferate, the greater the chances are that they will end up in the hands of terrorist organizations. In truth, though, any country that relies upon nuclear deterrence for its security is threatening the use of nuclear weapons against innocent people, and thus behaving as a terrorist nation itself.
We must recognize nuclear weapons for what they are. Some, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, see them as an “obscenity.” Others, like Josei Toda, view them as an “absolute evil.” I see them as a human-designed threat to the future of civilization and perhaps to all complex life on earth. By our technological cleverness, we humans have created the means of our own demise. We cannot allow this to continue.
Our great challenge is to abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us. It is not an easy goal to achieve, but it is not an impossible one. It is a necessary goal, and it gives me hope that your conference is taking place and that each of you is involved and joining in the effort to create a world free of nuclear threat.
The only number of nuclear weapons that will assure a human future is zero. No significant goal, such as the abolition of nuclear weapons, can be accomplished without awareness, boldness, creativity and hard work. I hope that you will never lose sight of the need to achieve a world with zero nuclear weapons and that you will always choose hope as an impetus for building a better world. Be persistent, persevere and never give up.