Nuclear weapons on center stage

"I am a champion of the abolition of nuclear weapons," said the keynote speaker at the Third Annual Dialogue on Peace and Justice, Friday, March 7. 

"Nuclear Weapons: Dangers and Solutions" was the theme of this year’s Peace and Justice Studies Program conference, which lasted three days. People from all ages and lifestyles gathered to hear some of America’s most prominent speakers and activists discuss nuclear weapons.

Dr. Michael Minch, the director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program, introduced the keynote speaker, Jonathan Schell, as the most important voice of all voices to talk about nuclear weapons.

"We were very pleased to have world experts here and we have gotten great feedback from the audience," Dr. Minch explained. Over 700 people altogether attended the conference during the three days that it was presented.

"This is the kind of event I wish I’d see at more universities," said Schell, in his opening remarks to a group of over 70 students and visitors.

During his 50-minute speech, Schell warned that living in the world today we need to be aware of the dangers of nuclear war and gave a few basic suggestions for eventual abolition of nuclear weapons.

He suggested that practical steps be taken to reach a clear goal to abolish all nuclear weapons, starting with the creation of a forum between all countries that have such weapons. "We need to get rid of existing weapons, and we are not going to let anybody else get them," he said.

It is a simple principle, stated Schell: We need to get rid of our own nuclear weapons.
"Which is more radical," he asked, "to blow ourselves off the earth or get rid of our own weapons?"

Schell also spoke about the history of America’s international policy, and the apparent lack of self-knowledge of our country’s place in the world.

Schell has taught at several schools, including Princeton, Harvard, New York University, and Yale. He is also the author of over 12 books, one of which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Schell is widely known throughout the United States and was well received here at UVSC.

"I’m glad that someone with his reputation could come here to raise awareness," said Margret Posch, an Austrian native who is currently a member of the Peace and Justice Commission in Salt Lake City.

"This is a fantastic conference," said Deb Sawyer, a coordinator for the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. "We’re thrilled with what UVSC has done. Each speaker has been incredible."

UCAN, which was created in 2007 to educate and involve Utahans to help abolish nuclear weapons, brought 12 people from their organization to the conference. Along with UCAN, several in the audience represented different organizations.

Among the many students in attendance, Rachel Draper, a philosophy major in her junior year from Salt Lake City, said that it is a "great opportunity for the university to have conferences about current political issues."

After attending the conference she said, "It’s weird that nuclear war isn’t a bigger issue. It has made me more aware of what is going on internationally as far as public policy."

According to the Peace and Justice Studies Program mission, they seek "to understand reasons for and solutions to the complex problems of violence and injustice and to contribute to peaceful and just alternatives."

Last year’s Dialogue on Peace and Justice was about abolishing land mines, and the year before that, it focused on world hunger. Next year’s dialogue will focus on genocide.

The Peace and Justice Studies Program hosts several speakers throughout the year. Their next speaker will present on April 3. For more information on upcoming events or to learn how you can get involved, you can go to

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