Day two of the NPT Pre-conference started at 10am back at Riverside Church on the upper west side of Manhattan. Unlike day one, day two would be an all day affair, including workshops, afternoon performances, and the closing event — an address from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
I started off the morning by attending the ‘Youth Lobbying and Messaging’ workshop. As you might imagine, this workshop of about thirty were mostly students from abroad and here in the U.S., all sharing a common passion — the desire for a nuclear weapon-free world. The workshop was broken into three smaller working groups focused on specific topics– 1) Youth participation in lobbying for Senate ratification of the new START treaty, 2) Youth participation at the United Nations level, and 3) Selling the idea of zero nuclear weapons to other young people in 30 seconds or less. My decision to attend the third working group proved to be the right choice.
If you were in an elevator with someone you’ve never met before, what would you say in 30 seconds or less to convince them that the international community should embrace a path to zero? If they believed nuclear weapons were strategically vital to our national security could you convince them otherwise? In order to spread the zero message, think about what you would say, and be ready for your next elevator ride.
After lunch, everyone gathered in the main assembly hall to watch a special international parade, listen to “The Recipe” – a group that raps about zero nuclear weapons, and to listen to an international panel speak about war, climate change, and nuclear weapons. See parade pictures below.
The afternoon workshop I attended was hosted by a group called “Think Outside the Bomb” — a small organization based in Washington D.C. dedicated to reaching youth with the idea of abolishing nuclear weapons by telling personal stories and experiences. During the workshop I heard stories about growing up in the Marshall Islands (the U.S. tested nuclear weapons there back in the 1940s), living as a family of uranium miners in New Mexico, and about bringing community attention to a nuclear facility in Kansas City. What made this workshop so interesting is the fact that despite these three people living in different places and having different stories, all of their experiences were so similar.
By 6pm there was a line of probably 500 people stretched out down Riverside Drive all waiting for the main event — an address from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The U.N. Secretary General did not disappoint. In the same hall where Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela gave famous speeches, the U.N. Secretary General spoke for 15 minutes reaffirming his commitment to the disarmament community and to the idea of a nuclear weapon-free world. Besides laying out his five point plan to zero nuclear weapons (released earlier this year), he concluded by saying “a world without nuclear weapons is on the horizon.” He received a standing ovation, and won the hearts and minds of all peace activists in attendance. His speech was so good, that when the Mayor of Hiroshima followed, the Mayor said “the Secretary General said everything I wanted to say, I have nothing more to add.” (He still went on to give a 15 minute speech, which was also very good.)
The evening c0ncluded with hands joined together in song. It was another great and peaceful day at Riverside Church. The atmosphere could not be any better for the International Day of Action.
See pictures from day two below. Click here to watch a video of U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s address.