Global Education

Politicians discuss Obama and nukes

By Justin Quinn and Shayna Sage
Published: October 2009

“Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderist of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.– President John F. Kennedy, in his 1961 Address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Members of the Boston community congregated at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Library and Museum to attend the “Presidency in the Nuclear Age conference sponsored by the Presidential Libraries and the National Archives on October 12.

The first hand accounts of historical events provided opportunities for people to broaden their knowledge of Nuclear Weapons. Although organized for students and teachers, the conference held an imbalance of students and people of an earlier generation.

The conference showed specially recorded video messages given by former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

National archives also showed videos of presidential speeches given by Jimmy Carter, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower.

All of the panelists and moderators were esteemed political celebrities ranging from authors and journalists to White House employees.

Theodore C. Sorenson, Special Counsel to President Kennedy, provided insight to the inner workings of the White House during the Nuclear Age.

Although the main theme of the day was the Nuclear Age, each panel debated over relevant sub-topics. Recent nuclear developments in North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan were mentioned and discussed. Former politicians from as far back as the Kennedy administration and political experts attended the panels.

To begin the conference, Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries Sharon Fawcett gave a welcome speech as a prelude to the day’s festivities. A pre-recorded video message from former President George H.W. Bush commended the efforts of the JFK Library’s current president Tom Putnam.

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F. Kennedy, gave a speech in memory of her father and his role as president during the nuclear age.
The topics of the day in chronological order included “The Race to Build the Bomb and the Decision to Use it, “Cuban Missile Crisis and the First Nuclear Test Ban Theory, “The Cold War and the Nuclear Arms Race, and, “Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism and the Presidency.

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