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- The gift of education
A presidential call for action
In a room filled mostly with students from QU 101 and 102 classes, former President Jimmy Carter changed at least one person’s opinion about nuclear disarmament. “I am an advocate of war, but after hearing his speech, I do not understand why people would ever want the use of nuclear weapons,” said Carley Shimkus, a junior journalism major.
On Wednesday, Sept. 26, after receiving the first Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, Carter presented his concerns and suggestions on nuclear proliferation in the recreation center. “It is still a serious threat today,” Carter said.
He told the audience of more than 3,000 people that there are 30,000 nuclear weapons worldwide, with the United States having 12,000. “It’s just as possible now, through mistakes or misjudgment, as it was during the era of the Cold War, to have a global holocaust,” he said.
Carter has been involved with nuclear weapon efforts since his presidency. “When I became president, I inherited the awesome threat of a nuclear holocaust during the later years of the Cold War when the United States and Soviet Union confronted each other with arsenals of an indescribable power,” Carter explained. He admitted that there are no present efforts to reduce any arsenals today.
Carter came to Quinnipiac University as part of the two day conference, “Albert Schweitzer’s Legacy: The Danger of Nuclear Weapons.”
“It’s an honor for me to be associated in this way with one of my longtime heroes, Dr. Albert Schweitzer,” said Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
The event has been in the works since last summer. “The more time spent on advance planning, the smoother the event will go,” Chief of Security John Twining, said.
Serious security measures were taken for the former president, including closing the recreation center several hours before the event, and doing a sweep of the building by K9 explosive detector teams. The Secret Service, QU security, state police, Hamden police and public affairs were present throughout the event.
Carter’s speech was focused on how the United States is not presently concerned with nuclear weapons. He mentioned that the United States rejected a mutual pledge stating that no nation was able to use atomic weapons on a nation that does not have atomic weapons.
“In rejecting or evading almost all nuclear arms control agreements negotiated during the last 50 years, the United States of America has become a prime obstacle to preventing nuclear proliferation,” Carter said.
The NPT treaty of 1970 was accepted by 187 nations and is the only binding commitment on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. “The fact that the United States is helping to cause the demise of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty should be a huge concern to all of us,” said David Ives, Executive Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute.
Carter also questioned why nuclear weapons have not been discussed by the recent presidential candidates. “As far as I know, none of these issues I just outlined to you has been mentioned in the ongoing political debates involving the next president of the United States,” he said.
Carter spoke in a way that would intrigue a younger crowd. “It was nice to see him adhere to a younger audience. I liked his jokes,” said Mike Marmo, junior management major.
“He got his point across and answered the main question appropriately, while being very engaging to a younger crowd,” Shimkus said.
Carter also suggested three steps to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. He said the country needs to abide by the Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear weapons test explosions in the atmosphere, outer space or underwater. Also, America needs to follow the Fissile Materials Cut Off treaty, to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation by adding international commitment and to reduce all arsenals.
“Carter is as knowledgeable about world issues as they come. He knows what he is talking about,” Ives said.
Carter warned about Iran, who signed the NPT and swore that their nuclear technology is only for peaceful purposes.
“It’s disturbing to remember that this same explanation has been given in the past by India, Pakistan and North Korea and has led to atomic weapons in every case,” Carter said.
Carter feels the United States needs to find a way to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons.
“We don’t know what Iran is going to do. We need to discourage their desire and alleviate their concerns that they need nuclear weapons,” Carter said. “We need to reassure the Iranian people through regular channels of diplomacy that they are not the next target to be attacked after we attacked Iraq.”
Carter ended his speech by urging those in attendance to help carry out Dr. Schweitzer’s dream.
“The world should be completely free of nuclear weapons. Bring about what Dr. Schweitzer prayed for. Eliminate every nuclear weapon from the face of this earth,” said Carter, as he concluded his address by lifting of both hands and bowed.
“I think that Carter drove home the point that we should not have to live in a world with nuclear weapons, and I agree,” said Victoria Lucas, senior criminal justice major.
During the question and answer portion after his speech, Carter was asked about the Iraq War. He explained how the Iraq Study Group spent months examining the situation in Iraq and came up with a proposal to withdraw troops, followed by discussion with surrounding areas to ensure that if and when forces are withdrawn there wouldn’t be a civil war. The proposal was rejected by the administration. “The Iraqi crisis will not be addressed substantially until this administration gets out of Washington,” Carter said.
This statement caught Lucas’ attention.
“I agree that the proposal brought forth by the committee is one that should not have been dismissed and when we get the current administration out of office, we will have a better shot at rectifying this crisis,” she said.
Other students shared her opinion.
“Hopefully our next president will do a better job.” Shimkus agreed.