Schweitzer Institute revives call for nuclear disarmament

By on April 23, 2010

The book includes former President Jimmy Carter’s speech to the Quinnipiac community in 2007, as well as essays from Quinnipiac professors and internationally-known experts such as Ira Helfand, the co-founder and physician advocate of Physicians for Social Responsibility.  They were all part of a conference to celebrate the anniversary of Schweitzer’s revered speech.

David Valone, associate professor of history, and David T. Ives, executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, co-edited the book, entitled “Nuclear Proliferation and the Dilemma of Peace in the Twenty-First Century.”

For 18 months, Ives and Valone have been hard at work editing the material, with one of their main tasks to remove the “ums” and “ahs” from Carter’s speech.

“When you speak off the top of your head, it’s not as fluid,” Ives said.  “So it needed work.”

The book is aimed to help people understand the threat of atomic weapons.  Its release came just one week after President Barack Obama and President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia signed a new arms reduction treaty on April 8, 2010, that will significantly lessen the countries’ arms and missiles stockpiles.

“It’s coming out at the perfect time,” Ives said.

Professor of Philosophy Benjamin Page contributed both to the conference and to the publication of the book.

Page has known about Schweitzer since he was a child.  His grandmother, who was born the same year as Schweitzer in 1875, would often tell him stories of Schweitzer’s honorable deeds in Africa.

At Quinnipiac, Page has been involved with the Albert Schweitzer Institute since its foundation.  He also contributed to the Institute’s first book, “Reverence for Life Revisited: Albert Schweitzer’s Relevance Today,” published in September 2007.

Because Page has radio experience, he was asked to read the Schweitzer speech at the conference.

“I got a mustache and a fake German accent,” Page said.  “But I didn’t think it made much sense to read something anyone could read.”

He then added in the context of Schweitzer’s thinking, his philosophy for life, his Nobel Peace Prize and the effect Schweitzer’s call for disarmament had.  From this came the third chapter of the book, “Reverence and Radiation: Reverence for Life and Albert Schweitzer’s Campaign against Nuclear Testing.”

“I hope it continues the process of alerting people of the dangers, even of the testing of nuclear weapons,” Page said.  “As Schweitzer points out, it provides detrimental genetic and environmental damages to humans, other life forms, and the planet itself.  The effect of that damage is very much in conflict with Schweitzer’s philosophy of ‘Reverence for Life.’”

Assistant Professor of Education Kevin Basmadjian was also asked to participate in the conference and contribute to the book.  He wrote the 10th chapter entitled “Using Critical Pedagogy as a Lens to Understand the Language of Nuclear Weapons.”

“Over the past decade since 9/11, words like ‘terrorism’ have become ubiquitous, with little given to their meanings, and how they may be used for political or propaganda purposes,” Basmadjian said.  “The chapter aims to help us develop a critical perspective toward these and other words that have become part of our culture, to examine their meanings at much deeper levels that we are traditionally accustomed to doing.”

Chair of the English department Robert Smart also contributed by writing the 11th chapter, titled “Reclaiming the Language for Peace.”

The book will be sent to United Nation diplomats and Carter, and will also be sold on Amazon.com.  It will be reviewed on NPR, and a book signing will be held at the UN as well.

“If we follow Schweitzer’s lead at all, it won’t go to just big cheeses in Washington and the media,” Page said.  “In his speech, Schweitzer was addressing the people of the world.  His idea is that the United States and Soviet Union at that point were so locked into their own mentalities, they couldn’t break through.  If the people of the world know what’s going on, the people will get mad and pressure their government to negotiate for real.”

“Ultimately, our ability to thrive as a global community will depend upon our capacity to understand and appreciate that every event must be understood from multiple, diverse perspectives,” Basmadjian said.

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Senior Managing Editor
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Year: 2012
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