Last week, Dr. Ira Helfand was presented with the 2023 Gandhi-King-Ikeda Community Builders Prize for his history of activism to eliminate nuclear weapons, as well as his current efforts through the Back from the Brink campaign, a grassroots movement he co-founded to bring communities together and build U.S. leadership to fundamentally change their nuclear weapons policy.
The prize is given each year by the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Institute for Cosmopolitan Virtue-Ethics and Reconciliation. The prize is named for Mahatma Gandhi who bequeathed a roadmap for social transformation through nonviolent action, Dr. King who employed that roadmap in a fashion that further confirmed the reliability of the Gandhian approach, and Dr. Ikeda who has effectively used Gandhian and Kingian nonviolent methods to democratize and internationalize the imperialist military state of Japan since 1960.
Past recipients of the prize include Nelson R. Mandela (2001), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2006), and Coretta Scott King (2006).
Dr. Helfand is a member of the International Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, and co-President of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). He is also co-Founder and Past President of Physicians for Social Responsibility, IPPNW’s U.S. affiliate.
He is currently involved with building momentum for H. Res. 77, a resolution introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) that calls on the United States to embrace the goals and provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and to adopt Back from the Brink’s common sense policies for preventing nuclear war.
As part of the ceremony, Dr. Helfand delivered a keynote address to a packed house at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA on the evening of April 13.
“Every one of us wants to do something good with our life. Those of us living today have been given the opportunity to save the world. And there is nothing better that anyone can ever do […] None of us is expected to solve this problem all by ourselves. But neither can any of us step back from that portion of the solution which is ours to do. Each of us has to figure out what it is that we can do to educate our communities, to build a political movement in this country […] so that our leaders can do the right thing and eliminate these weapons before they eliminate us.”
His powerful presentation can be viewed below (from 1:29:00 to 1:50:50) and the full text of his speech is available here.