By Svetlana Arutyunyan
The founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation lectured Sunday on “Building Global Peace in the Nuclear Age” to a group of about 120 at the Bronco Student Center. David Krieger shared his experiences with the audience and encouraged a world without nuclear weapons. Krieger won various awards for his work as an advocate for building peace, strengthening international law and abolishing nuclear weapons. He also authored and edited various books including “Hold Hope,” “Wage Peace,” “Einstein-Peace Now!” “Peace: 100 ideas,” and a poetry compilation “Today is Not a Good Day for War.” Krieger said individuals don’t merely adopt certain views, but rather life experiences determine the stance we take on issues. “What we do doesn’t just happen full blown-there are experiences in our life that lead us in the direction,” he said. “Sometimes those experiences are a crossroads and we have to decide when we get to those crossroads which path we’re going to take.” At 21 years of age, Krieger visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, where he discovered the devastating consequences of nuclear weapons. Prior to his visit, Krieger hadn’t thought much of those consequences because of what he learned in school. “I’ve learned a very simple lesson-drop the bomb, won the war. That was the lesson that school children learn,” said Krieger. “And when I went to Hiroshima, I learned something very significant-that was that there were people under those bombs.” The eye-opening experience brought Krieger to a crossroads when upon his return he was drafted into the army. He realized he could not fight for a cause he did not believe in. Krieger joined a reserve unit, where he thought he would do the least amount of service. But in 1968, when he was called to active duty in Vietnam, Krieger protested participation in a war that he thought was illegal and immoral. After filing for a conscientious objector, Krieger was turned down after several interviews. So Krieger sued the army and won. It was then that Krieger came to the realization to stand up for his beliefs. “If you stand up for what you believe in, if you do what you know is right, you’ll never regret what you’ve done,” he said. Krieger found himself at a crossroad yet again. He had to choose whether he would do what he thought were mundane things, or if he was going to work in creating a weapons-free future, in creating a world of peace. Krieger chose the latter. And nearly 25 years ago, he worked with a group of people in creating the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. The goals the team came up with for the foundation, which Krieger said the foundation carries to this day, were to abolish nuclear weapons, to strengthen international law and empower a generation of peace leaders. Krieger said if the history of civilization were to be described in a book with a million words per page that went back to approximately 15 billion years ago, when the Big Bang reportedly took place, civilization would occur half way through the last word on the last page. The nuclear age would occur in the final period on the last page. “I think it’s an apt metaphor as well because, ‘Is it going to be a final period or are we going to be able to turn that page and perhaps start a new volume in human history?'” Krieger went on to say that nuclear weapons are catastrophically dangerous, incompatible with global security, enormously costly, illegal under international law and profoundly immoral. He also drew on the example of Republican Ronald Reagan, a former president who said the best way to reach peace would be to abolish nuclear weapons. Krieger said Reagan’s example demonstrates that nuclear peace is a nonpartisan cause. Graduate student Rita Patel who attended the lecture, said she found it interesting that Krieger would draw an example of Reagan as a supporter of nuclear abolition. “Most people view nuclear weapons as a Democratic viewpoint. But the example showed the mentality that Republicans can also support the cause,” she said.
Patel, who is working on a master’s degree in history, said the lecture lacked depth. She added that an hour was insufficient to address such an important issue. Patel was also disappointed in the few number of students who attended the lecture. The lecture, which was sponsored by the Ahimsa Center, also gave audience members an opportunity to ask questions from Krieger, followed by a book signing by Krieger. Nonviolence-the meaning of the word ahimsa in Hindu-is also the mission of the center, which attempts to educate students and staff on practicing ahimsa as a way of thinking and living. Dr. Tara Sethia, director of the Ahimsa Center, said her goal for organizing the event was to create awareness by bringing an expert to educate and provide a forum to expose the ideas of nonviolence, in order to promote a nuclear weapons-free world. “In talking to various people, I personally felt there was good interaction with the audience,” she said. “I think the speaker did a good job, he evoked good questions from the audience.” Rajni Singh, a second-year transfer student studying history, said she enjoyed the lesson of nonviolence she learned at the lecture, and paralleled them to the teachings of Gandhi. “I am very fascinated about Gandhi and nonviolence,” she said. “It’s essential to use nonviolent ways to solve issues.”
Svetlana Arutyunyan can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (909) 869-3747.
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