College to Highlight the Nuclear Threat at 30th Edition of Westheimer Peace Symposium

September 14, 2020

All Virtual Two-Day Event Features Look at 75 Years of the Nuclear Age

Wilmington College’s Westheimer Peace Symposium has always prided itself as being international in its scope of presenters, topics and concerns. This fall, the 30th annual event will be available for a global audience with exclusively online programming Oct. 1 and 2.

The College’s milestone 30th annual Westheimer Peace Symposium will be held virtually while highlighting “The Nuclear Threat: Past, Present, Future.”

The two-day Symposium will commemorate the recent 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki through a collaboration between the Peace Resource Center, which houses an extensive, internationally recognized archive of atomic bombing materials, and artistic presentations on the topic through The Response Project.

The program is available to the public via Facebook live-streaming on the Peace Resource Center and Wilmington College Facebook pages. However, series of special concurrent workshops on both days require pre-registration for availability on Zoom. Due to participation limits, advance registration is required for the general public, who can sign up beginning Sept. 15. See <> for registration details and a full schedule of events.

The Peace Symposium opens Oct. 1 at 10 a.m. with opening remarks from Mary Westheimer, daughter of founding benefactors Charles and May Westheimer, and Tanya Maus, director of the Peace Resource Center (PRC) and Quaker Heritage Center (QHC). The morning’s keynote address will follow as Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, will speak on “People of New Mexico Who Were Negatively Impacted by the Trinity Nuclear Test.”

What then transpires are three concurrent workshops, from 11:20 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., requiring advance registration. Programs include Dr. Russell Kincaid, professor of mathematics and physics at WC, providing insight into the Manhattan Project with Dr. Bonnie Erwin, associate professor of English, presenting survivors’ accounts of the atomic bombings. Rumi Hanagaki and Toshiko Tanigawa will share their experiences of wartime Japan, while the third session will feature Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, who will speak on the circumstances that led to Japan attacking the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.

Available for all viewers with registration not required is a fourth workshop, from 11:20 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., at which David Richardson, a professor with the University of North Carolina’s Dept. of Epidemiology, will speak on “Radiation and Cancer: From the Manhattan Project to Today.” This lecture will include observations on the health and mortality of persons involved in the nuclear weapons complex.

The afternoon will feature a plenary session open to all with Susan Southard presenting a program, from 1:50 to 2:30 p.m., titled “Beneath the Mushroom Cloud: Life after Nuclear War.” Using historic and contemporary photographs and survivors’ personal stories, she will take her audience on a journey of post-nuclear survival and how their stories should impact nuclear politics today.

From 2:40 to 4:10 p.m., four additional concurrent workshops will be held for which registration is required. Carlos Umana, M.D., a member of the Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, will present “The Dimensions of the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons: An Evidence-based Approach to Campaigning and Policy-making.” Also, Yuki Miyamoto, associate professor of religious studies at DePaul University, will present a workshop titled “Beginning Our Conversation with Our Knowledge of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Also, Susan Southard will present a second workshop, “Writing as Healing: A Creative Writing Workshop,” and Mitchie Takeuchi, will speak from personal experience when presenting “Growing into Hiroshima: A Story of Second Generation Hibakusha (atomic bombing sufferer).”

During that same 2:40 to 4:10 p.m. period, Tanya Maus, director of the College’s PRC and QHC will present a plenary program open to all, “The Archives of Knowledge and Action: Introducing the Peace Resource Center at Wilmington College and the Barbara Reynolds Memorial Archives.”

An especially unique component of this year’s symposium is the Response Project from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and open to all. The Response Project is a multidisciplinary fine arts endeavor that draws together seven artists from across the United States to produce original artistic works in response to the PRC’s Barbara Reynolds Memorial Collection. They range from filmmaker Brian L. Frye and poet elin o’Hara slavick to WC’s own art professor Hal Shunk. After viewing the collection, the seven have created responses using their preferred artistic genre. Different artists will be featured during both days’ programming.

The opening day’s presentations will conclude with the keynote address, “Don’t Bank on the Bomb: How Small Steps Lead to Lasting Change,” by Susi Snyder, coordinator of the organization, Don’t Bank on the Bomb.

Day two, Oct. 2, will start with a presentation, from 10:20 to 11:20 a.m., titled “Replacing CO2 with Plutonium? Why Nuclear Power Is a Poor Approach to Reducing CO2 Emissions” by Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

Four concurrent workshops will follow, each requiring registration.

They include “The Chernobyl Disaster by Keith Orejel, assistant professor of history at WC, who will examine the disastrous nuclear reactor meltdown that occurred in Russia in 1986, and a presentation by Kathleen Sullivan, director of Hibakusha Stories, titled “Staying Awake, Staying Alive: Maintaining Active Hope for Nuclear Abolition. Other concurrent workshops are “Mining Personal Connections to Lessons in History,” which will be presented by Napoleon Maddox, creative director of the Underworld Jazz Festival, and Carmichael and Carna Capelle’s “The Legacies of Nuclear Testing in the Marshall Islands and the Fight for a Fair Compact Agreement.”

Also, in that 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. time slot will be a lecture for which registration is not required titled “Truman’s Kyoto Misconception: The Hidden Meaning of Hiroshima” by Alex Wellerstein of the Stevens Institute for Technology.

Additional artists in the Response Project will present from 12:40 to 1:40 p.m. followed by a plenary session open to all featuring Kathleen Sullivan, director of Hibakusha Stories, presenting “The Art of Storytelling: Hibakusha Testimony and Artful Action for Disarmament from 1:50 to 2:50 p.m.

Four more workshops for which registration is required will be presented from 3 to 4 p.m. They include “Talking Peace: Listening to the A-Bomb Trees of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” by Katy McCormick, associate professor at Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts; “Animating the Archive” by interdisciplinary artist Migwa Orimo; “What Washington Is Thinking about Nuclear Weapons 75 Years into the Nuclear Age” by Anthony Wier, legislative secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending with the Friends Committee on National Legislation; and “Turning Knowledge into Action: Practical Steps Toward Political Activism” by Susi Snyder of PAX Netherlands.

Also running concurrently from 3 to 4 p.m. is a lecture not requiring registration titled “Beyond the U.N.: The Work of Small Acts in Nagasaki’s City Diplomacy for Peace” by Hirokazu Miyozaki, professor of anthropology at Northwestern University.

The final Response Project segment will commence from 4:10 to 5:10 p.m. followed by the Symposium’s closing keynote address, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., “Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Through Humanitarian Disarmament: A Fight for All of Us” by Carlos Umana, an officer with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Bill Westheimer, a son of the founding benefactors, will provide closing remarks for the historic 30th Symposium.

The Westheimer Peace Symposium was established in 1991 after philanthropists Charles and May Westheimer endowed an annual lecture series to reflect the Quaker commitment to peace making, social justice, humanitarian service and respect for all persons. Since then, the annual Symposium has brought together national and international speakers to address peace, society and the environment during daylong conversations with the College, community and guests.