Joseph Gerson speech macbride prize 2022

Joseph Gerson’s Speech Honoring Hiroshi Taka on His Award of the Sean MacBride Peace Prize – October 16, 2022

For a shade under 40 years Joseph Gerson has worked closely with Hiroshi Taka, long the Secretary General of Gensuikyo, the Japan Council against A- & H-Bombs. In his speech during the International Peace Bureau’s MacBride Peace Prize ceremony for Taka, Joseph paid homage to this exceptional, modest deeply  committed and inspiring leader of the Japanese and international nuclear disarmament movements. He explains why so many people and movements have been inspired by Taka.

Hiroshi Taka MacBride Prize Ceremony
Joseph Gerson – October 16, 2022

Taka, congratulations on being awarded the McBride Peace Prize. I wish that I could be with you and others in person in Ghent.

I need to begin with an apology. Knowing how modest and self-effacing you are, I expect that this ceremony is somewhat difficult for you. Worse, now you must endure my remarks. So please accept my apologies. But please appreciate that those of us who have known, worked with, and been inspired by you want you and others to know how deeply we appreciate all that you have done for nuclear weapons abolition and for human survival. For these we want to honor you.

Few people have been as sensitive to and supportive of the Hibakusha in Japan and in other countries as you have. And few have more deeply internalized and acted on their wisdom that nuclear weapons and human beings cannot coexist.

Tragically, criminally, as in past wars and confrontations, now in Ukraine, and over Taiwan and Korea, human survival is again threatened by the increased dangers of nuclear war. That we have survived, and that Putin, U.S. presidents, and the other rulers of nuclear weapons states have, since the Nagasaki A-bombing, respected the taboo against attacking with nuclear weapons is in no small way the result of the world’s nuclear disarmament movements, to which you have made enormous contributions and via Gensuikyo helped to lead.

Sharing a memory, it was just over 20 years ago that a small international gathering was held in Seoul to launch global movement against foreign military bases. Given the history of Japanese imperialism and its brutal colonization of Korea, the organizers were reluctant to invite you. But Cora Fabros and I gently insisted. The evening before the conference, there was a dinner in a small room, where each of us were expected to introduce ourselves. With our Korean hosts suspicious of the unknown Japanese man in their presence, there was utter silence when you began to speak. Pur hosts understandably hung judgmentally on every syllable you uttered. As we expected,
you passed the test with flying colors.

That same integrity is what made you a trusted figure and now an elder within Gensuikyo, made it possible for you to work with elected officials across Japan and diplomats from around the world, as well as to build collaborations despite the political divisions within the Japanese disarmament and peace movements in Japan. I remember organizing meetings you arranged with Gensuikin, Peace Boat, and others as we built the NPT Review mobilizations. Similarly, there have been the strategies that you helped to forge that built the collaborations that secured the millions of abolition
petition signatures that we presented to the presidents of NPT Review Conferences and U.N. High Representatives for Disarmament.

Speaking personally, and I trust for others, I am grateful for this opportunity to thank you. With your encouragement, support, and risk taking, you helped us become who we are and to make the contributions we have made. We are indebted to you for introducing us to Dr. Hida, Chieko Watanabe, Senji Yamaguchi, Sumiteru Tanaguchi, Oishi Matashichi, and to the memories of Aikichi and Suzyo Kuboyama. They were among the most committed and courageous Hibakusha who made it impossible for the world to ignore the monumental crimes of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Bikini and the necessity of nuclear weapons abolition. You were the visionary who conceived and led the organizing of the Global Hibakusha delegations and many speaking tours. Your insights into Japanese and Asian politics and geopolitics have been invaluable. And without the quiet roles that you and Gensuikyo played, our massive NPT Review mobilizations and conferences would have been shadows of what they became.

People who don’t know you well can only imagine the dailyness, the patience, the countless conversations, the untold number of meetings, the difficult compromises, the stress, and your generosity that have been part and parcel of all that you have accomplished. This will embarrass you, but to help others understand why you are receiving the McBride Prize, I want to share something you once told me. In a personal conversation about a decade ago. I asked you how you were able to simultaneously and so successfully hold together your roles in nurturing and helping to build Gensuikyo’s grass roots movement, its relations and collaborations with the world’s nuclear
disarmament movements, and the engagements with diplomats from Malaysia and Egypt to senior U.N. officials. You took a moment to reflect and then you answered with quiet humility, “It’s excruciating.”

This is the commitment and sacrifice that we are all called upon to make if humanity is to survive the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons and now the climate catastrophe.

Finally, let me say that back in ancient history, in my youth, I was privileged to know Sean McBride. I am certain that he would take great pride in you, and by extension Gensuikyo, for being honored by the peace prize being given in his name.

Taka, domo arrigato!

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