Mayor's Speech at U.S. Conference of Mayors' Luncheon in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Non-Violent Response to the Ultimate Violence

January 17, 2005
Washington, D.C.   U.S.A.
Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima

Thank you for your kind introduction.

Mayor Plusquellic, Mayor Pate, Mr Morial, ladies and gentlemen, It is a tremendous honor for me and the City of Hiroshima to be given this opportunity to speak to this prestigious gathering of US mayors.

First I would like to publicly thank Mayor Plusquellic for attending, with 13 other US mayors, the US-Japan Cities Summit in Hiroshima last November. The next such summit will be held in Honolulu in 2006, that is next year, and I hope to see many of you there.

I am also here to thank you for the resolution you passed at your 72nd general meeting in Boston last June. As I will describe, this resolution has taken on a great significance.

It is a pure coincidence that in Japan we traditionally celebrate the coming of age for our young people on January 15, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. On that day, I always tell our young people about the civil rights movement in the US, to impress upon them importance of electoral politics and non-violent social change.

It is not surprising that Dr. Martin Luther King adamantly opposed nuclear weapons. A man whose entire life was dedicated to non-violence was not about to look kindly on these ultimate, tsunami-dwarfing, instruments of violence. His words on nuclear proliferation seem particularly prescient today: He said "I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation." These words were spoken on December 10, 1964, before negotiations had even begun on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an agreement meant to save the world from that fate. Today, the basic bargain written into that treaty is unraveling. With the nuclear-weapon states deferring indefinitely their promise to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, non-nuclear states are losing patience. Some have acquired and others are bent on acquiring nuclear weapons of their own.

Nine months ago, a delegation of 16 Mayors and Deputy Mayors from around the world took part in a Non-Proliferation Treaty's review process meeting. Our aim was to revive the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world. To that end, we offered a plan to deal conclusively with the threat of nuclear terrorism by completely eliminating all nuclear weapons by the year 2020. I believe we succeeded in raising the sights of the diplomats above the five-year-by-five-year review cycle that is manifestly failing to tackle the nuclear threats of today.

After this first-ever foray by a group of mayors into the rarified atmosphere of international nuclear-arms negotiations, we set ourselves the objective of mobilizing mayors worldwide for the big event: the 2005 Treaty Review Conference. As we were studying alternative drafts of an international mayors' petition, our U.S. members drafted and submitted a resolution to your annual meeting last June in Boston. The resolution's main operative paragraph emphasized the first critical step of our 2020 Vision campaign. The Conference, and I quote, "calls on the U.S. President to support a decision by the 2005 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to commence negotiations on the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and nuclear-weapons related materials." In adopting this resolution, the U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a clear message not only to the U.S. President, but also to the entire world, "Let's get started freeing ourselves from the threat of mass annihilation."

The alternative drafts were swept aside and "Bravo, American Mayors!" became the theme of our international Statement. We expect that more than 1,000 mayors worldwide will sign it this document by April of this year, expressing full agreement with the position taken by the U.S. mayors and similarly calling on his or her own Head of Government to declare readiness to negotiate. We, mayors, are keen to support American leadership when it advances a vision that holds all nations to the same high standard.

I will leave this afternoon for a previously planned engagement in Europe, but I was eager to stop in Washington to ask for your help. In early May, I hope to lead an international delegation of 100 mayors to the Review Conference at UN Headquarters, and I believe it is extremely important that U.S. mayors play a leading role in this delegation. Therefore, I respectfully request that the members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors give their full support to their President, my new, good friend Mayor Plusquellic, in heading up an impressive U.S. contingent of mayors.

At the National Cathedral just a week before his tragic death, Dr. King warned, "The whole world may well be plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine." Indeed, it is beyond our imaginations. However, many of the elders in my city can imagine it only to well, which is why their Promised Land is a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons. Like Dr. King, they may not get to this Promised Land with us; but I, for one, am determined that at least some of them shall see the day when the whole world awakens from its nuclear trance.

I ask you in the name of all our elders, who knew the many horrors of World War II. More importantly, I ask you in the name of our children and their children, whom it is our sacred duty to protect from such horrors. Please join me in pulling the world back from this abyss. Let us together do everything in our power to reach that Promised Land.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

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