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President Obama's Nobel Address on Thursday may be much more than an inspiring speech
Ira Helfand, MD
December 7, 2009
The Nobel Committee has invited me to attend the award ceremony and dinner in Oslo this week to represent the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and our US affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility. This year marks the 24th anniversary of our receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for the work we did alerting the world to the medical consequences of nuclear war. Their invitation this year highlights our ongoing work to secure the abolition of nuclear weapons and to achieve a number of interim step towards that goal such as final ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
We’re hoping that the President’s speech will include concrete commitments that show the United States is committed not just to the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons but to the steps needed to get there. In Prague this past spring the President called for a world free of nuclear weapons, but said that it might not be achieved in his lifetime. That wording left many supporters of nuclear abolition wondering how committed the President was to an international treaty—or convention—that would ban all nuclear weapons.
The President's appearance at the UN in September, and the unexpected insertion of a call for nuclear disarmament in his speech on Afghanistan last week, suggest that he is actually committed to abolition as a practical real time goal.
His address at the Nobel Prize ceremony this week may help to answer the question more clearly. It provides a high profile opportunity for him to reaffirm his commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons, and to signal whether he is going to work for a treaty to accomplish this. It also gives him the chance to spell out why nuclear abolition is necessary for the security of the American people and all humanity. If he seizes the opportunity this year's Nobel Address may be truly historic.
I will be blogging from Oslo as the week's events unfold and hope to be able to report to you further evidence that President Obama is indeed committed to securing the elimination of nuclear weapons. I encourage you to share your thoughts about this historic moment for nuclear disarmament. What would you like to hear the President say?