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Remembering the Past and Taking Back the Future

Posted by Laicie Olson on August 6, 2009

Over sixty years ago today, in the waning days of World War II, the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped its deadly payload on the city of Hiroshima.  The city was devastated almost instantly and an estimated 140,000 people were killed or died within months.  Three days later, the United States detonated a second bomb over Nagasaki.  Another 80,000 men, women and children lost their lives.  Many died from injuries or the combined effects of flash burns, trauma and radiation burns, compounded by illness, malnutrition and radiation sickness.  Others continue to suffer from leukemia and solid cancers attributed to their exposure to radiation.

Today, at a solemn ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Aug. 6, 1945, attack, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba urged global leaders to back President Barack Obama's call for world free of nuclear weapons.  At his April speech in Prague, President Obama stated that the United States, as the only nation that has deployed atomic bombs in combat, has a "moral responsibility" to act and declared his goal to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Johan Bergenäs’ recent article in World Politics Review was a rallying cry:

Fueled by their optimism and even opportunism -- much to gain, little to lose -- youth populations have defied tyrants, overthrown oppressive regimes and torn down theoretically impenetrable walls.

Joseph Cirincione, the President of Ploughshares Fund has called youth “the counter to cynicism.”  Whether it is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or the Nuclear Posture Review of the United States (NPR), we are faced with a crucial opportunity to influence change.  We cannot wait to see that the decisions of our fathers shape the future that is ours.

In his recent Cairo speech, President Obama put it perfectly: "If we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. . . . [Youth] more than anyone, have the ability to re-imagine the world, to remake this world."  Today, as we remember the past, let us begin to re-shape the future.

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