Welcome to the Second annual Washington, DC Think Outside the Bomb, conference. Before going forward, I would like to thank American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute and Americans for Informed Democracy. Without their help, this event would not be possible.

My introduction to nuclear weapons issues came from American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute. As an undergraduate student, I was fortunate enough to travel to Japan to see the effects of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even after 60 years the physical and emotional scars on the people of Japan have not dissipated. It was a life-changing experience for me and ultimately has led me here today. I hope many of you have the opportunity to travel to Japan.

Before going ahead with the conference, I’d like to talk for a moment about what this conference is and why now more than ever there is a need for a new generation of peace leaders.

I am an American born after 1978. According to pop culture and statistical studies, we are known as Millennials or Generation Y. We are considered socially progressive and politically active. However, my generation does not consider global nuclear disarmament a priority. I believe the reason for this is that we are the first generation to come of age in a post-Cold War society. We are the first post-Cold War Americans.

At the end of the Cold War there was a common belief that the nuclear threat would subside. Rather than work towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, the Clinton Administration missed an opportunity to make sweeping changes and instead, to a large extent, reaffirmed antiquated Cold War policy already in place. The existence of nuclear weapons continued, but the public’s attention towards them waned.

Unlike those who came before, my “post-Cold War Generation” was not exposed to a strong public outcry for the abolition of nuclear weapons. We also did not experience the nuclear arms race first hand. We did not live with the fear of duck and cover drills, nuclear testing, the Cuban missile crisis, and an unprecedented nuclear arms build up.

The current generation of young people is a “post-Cold War Generation” that has been incorrectly taught that nuclear weapons are acceptable if possessed by responsible people. Instead of disarmament, they have embraced nonproliferation.

There is a small window of opportunity before this generation takes seats of power in federal government and decide nuclear policy. Now more than ever, it is critical that young people learn about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need for US leadership toward nuclear disarmament.

In 2005 the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation responded to this growing need by bringing together 50 young leaders in the nuclear field to Santa Barbara, California for the first national Think Outside the Bomb Conference. That August, the Think Outside the Bomb Participants created a Statement of Principles that guides the work of the young people in the network.

Those principles are as follows:

  • Inspired by the need for a new generation of leaders working toward a nuclear-free world, Think Outside the Bomb is a group of young people;
  • Aware of the historical context and the current urgency to address the devastating effects of the nuclear complex;
  • Recognizing the need to develop connections between the nuclear complex and global, environmental, racial, economic and social justice;
  • Emphasizing the importance of the right to self-determination of all indigenous peoples, who have been among the most affected by the nuclear complex;
  • Drawing attention to the need to redefine security in terms of human and environmental needs;
  • Underlining the need to move beyond military force as the principal means of solving conflict and instead resolve conflict by nonviolent means;
  • Understanding the devastation caused by nuclear weapons and memorializing the many victims of bomb production at every step – from uranium mining to design, to production, to testing, to use and threat of use; and
  • Reaffirming our humanity through mutual respect, nonviolence and consensus-building.

Nickolas Roth is Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Washington, DC office.