The Common Good

Persistent Efforts to Counter a Persistent Nuclear Threat

A generation has now come of age now for which "Fall Out Shelter" signs are nothing but rusty remnants of a time long past. Young people who have no memory of the Soviet Union and who were never alive when the Berlin wall stood cast their ballots in a Presidential election. For them, the "Cuban Missile Crisis" is a paragraph in a history book and the entire Cold War just a few pages.

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This however, does not erase the bitter irony that President Obama spoke to in Prague yesterday, "Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up."

Past Presidents have taken strides towards disarmament; historians tell us that Reagan was constantly haunted by the threat. I know that President Obama feels a personal burden about the threat that nuclear weapons pose to our world. This is why I hope and pray that the vision he declared without equivocation comes quickly to pass, he said, "So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

He went on to recognize that we are still a long way off and that, "This goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence." The progress that has already been made through patience and persistence is evident in this young generation that has not grown up with the same prevailing fears that many of us who came to age in the Cold War have. While the fear is not as palpable, the threat is still real and the progress that will be made will greatly depend upon generations uniting to remove this blight from our planet. The challenge is before us and the uphill battle will continue for as the President said:

Now, I know that there are some who will question whether we can act on such a broad agenda. There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible, given inevitable differences among nations. And there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it's worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve.

But make no mistake: We know where that road leads. When nations and peoples allow themselves to be defined by their differences, the gulf between them widens. When we fail to pursue peace, then it stays forever beyond our grasp. We know the path when we choose fear over hope. To denounce or shrug off a call for cooperation is an easy but also a cowardly thing to do. That's how wars begin. That's where human progress ends.

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