William Perry: On Moving Toward Nuclear Zero

It’s not every day you get to hear the former head of the Pentagon explain why we should get rid of nuclear weapons. William Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, was once the chief developer of nuclear weapons. Now he favors eliminating the weapons he helped build.

Why?  What drives a man with such a long and distinguished career to commit himself in his advanced years to traveling all over the world to advocate nuclear disarmament? He could be taking it easy, playing golf in Florida, but instead next week he’ll brave the snow of northern Indiana to speak with students, faculty, and interested publics about a world without nuclear weapons.

In a public symposium at Notre Dame (Thursday, Feb. 3) entitled “Ethical Dimensions of a World Without Nuclear Weapons,” Perry will explain his reasons. He will focus on the dangers of nuclear proliferation and the spread of global terrorism and argue that global nonproliferation can’t succeed unless all states, led by the United States, commit themselves to eliminating nuclear weapons.

I have had the privilege of getting to know Perry. We met first at the home of former Secretary of State George Schultz in California and then again at a conference the Kroc Institute helped organize in Helsinki. “You’re one of the reasons I came here,” he said to me in Helsinki. “This is a moral issue, and I want to work with you to awaken church and religious networks.”

I was humbled by what he said but also took his words seriously. This is why we are organizing the forum next week at Notre Dame—to address the critical ethical challenges that arise as nations begin to move toward nuclear zero, and to deepen awareness of the moral imperative to eliminate nuclear weapons. We hope you’ll join us.

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