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Peace and Disarmament

Back to listNov 11, 2009

Dr. Jeffrey Boutwell of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs Speaks at SGI-USA's Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series


091111x_wt_cop_boutwell(2).jpg Dr. Jeffrey Boutwell

On November 11, 2009, Dr. Jeffrey Boutwell, the executive director of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs for the last 10 years, spoke at the SGI-USA Washington, D.C., Culture Center before some 100 people. His talk marked the first anniversary of the Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series at the center.

The evening program began with a short video on the history of the Pugwash Conferences, followed by a dialogue. In his talk, Dr. Boutwell spoke about the similarities between the Pugwash platform and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda's peace proposals, stating they both advocate the abolition of war as a social institution and the need for a deep transformation in the perception that having nuclear weapons is a point of prestige for nations.

Dr. Boutwell observed that the Pugwash movement plays a unique role toward this end, since it is not a public organization. He stated, "We create a special place for dialogue where scientists, politicians and experts in conflict resolution from polar opposite sides of the political spectrum can come together to have a dialogue in a nonconfrontational way and look for common solutions." Dr. Boutwell also spoke about the need to attach a new sense of urgency to eliminating nuclear arms.

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The first Pugwash Conference was held in July 1957 in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada. Dr. Joseph Rotblat, founder of the Pugwash Conferences, was the only scientist to voluntarily leave the Manhattan Project before the explosion of the world's first atomic bomb in 1945. He brought together 22 of the world's most influential scientists to discuss ways to eliminate nuclear weapons in the midst of the Cold War.

It was the same year that second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda issued his seminal declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons at a gathering before some 50,000 youth on September 8, 1957, in Yokohama, Japan. He did so based on the belief that since human beings gave rise to nuclear weapons, it was not beyond their power to eliminate them. Dr. Rotblat and Mr. Ikeda later held a series of dialogues, which were published as the book A Quest for Global Peace.

After his lecture, Dr. Boutwell held a dialogue with local SGI-USA youth representatives, followed by a discussion with the attendees.

The Distinguished Speakers Series commenced in 2007, with lecturers focusing on one or more of the eight action areas defined by the 1999 United Nations Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace. Series events are held regularly at SGI-USA centers in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Honolulu.

[Adapted from an article in the December 11, 2009 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photos courtesy of Philip Rosenberg]