Education to Action: Understanding Hiroshima & Nagasaki Today

On September 27, 2016, the Bernard & Sandra Otterman Foundation, in collaboration with Hibakusha Stories, hosted an event in New York City on the human costs of nuclear war and how to take action for disarmament. The program, "Education to Action: Understanding Hiroshima & Nagasaki Today," was moderated by Otterman Foundation Executive Director Michael Otterman and featured interactive presentations from:

Pictured, clockwise, from top-left: Bernard Otterman, Susan Southard, Kathleen Sullivan and Ray Matsumiya

The event took place at Studio Art Loft NYC and welcomed more than forty activists, artists, and staff from UN Permanent Missions and New York-based NGOs. Susan Southard described to the audience in vivid detail the humanitarian impact of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, the subject of her award-winning book. Ray Matsumiya explained how his grandfather became a hibakusha when he rushed into the devastated city of Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped, and how his grandfather's legacy inspired his career in conflict resolution and work with the Oleander Initiative today. Kathleen Sullivan led the audience in two interactive exercises; the first used the power of sound conjure for the audience the total firepower of current nuclear stockpiles, while the second shined a light on what we stand to lose if we don't work for disarmament today.

Bernard Otterman, in his remarks, provided context for his foundation's work in non-proliferation education and stressed the importance of citizen-led leadership on nuclear disarmament. Bernard recalled: 

In my youth, one of my heroes was Noble Peace Prize winner, Andrei Sakharov, who after heading the development of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, became an outspoken dissident. At great sacrifice and expense to his personal life, he urged the Soviet Union and the United States to destroy their stockpile of nuclear weapons and cooperate in non-military areas. With the arrival of Gorbachev on the Soviet national scene, this started to take place.

Here in the States, the non-proliferation and disarmament groups were very disappointed when President Reagan at the 1986 Reykjavik Summit, at the very last minute, turned down Gorbachev’s proposal to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, at the present, there is no Gorbachev on the horizon, and it is we who must work to achieve non-proliferation in the near term, nuclear disarmament in the long run, and a more peaceful world in the future.