Prof. Jonathan King of MIT opened the Foreign Policy for All conference on November 8 with these remarks.
Welcome to this important Foreign Policy for All forum, and to MIT. I’m Jonathan King, a faculty member in Biology and a member of the Steering Committee of the Technology and Culture Forum at MIT, which is hosting this event.
The T&C forum, which celebrated its 50th anniversary night before before last, is an independent organization of faculty students and staff. T&C addresses pressing social and political issues in science and technology – issues usually considered too touchy by academic departments or the administration. The independence of the T&C forum derives form its strong support by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, which designates the Episcopal chaplaincy to this work, notably Rev. Amy McCreath and Trish Weinmann. Also with us from this tradition is Prof. Willard Johnson who led the South Africa divestment campaign at the height of the anti-apartheid struggles .
MIT itself has a complex history with respect to militarization At the end of WWII, after the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many of the Manhattan Project physicists, dispersed, to MIT, to Chicago, to UC Berkeley. The group that came to MIT including Victor Weisskopf, Phillip Morrison, and Bernard Feld – editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists – had concluded that nuclear weapons constituted a serious threat to humanity.
In fact during the Postwar period and up until recently, MIT was the second leading university Pentagon contractor, after the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics lab. Thus all through the cold war and subsequent US military adventures, while the majority of faculty and students were silenced through the potent bribe of Defense Department funding, the campus maintained a strong nuclear disarmament group, which provided some wiggle room for the views you will hear today. And of course during the resistance to the War on Vietnam we had some other leaders such as Noam Chomsky.
However it still takes courage to address these issues and we owe a great debt to Massachusetts Peace Action for organizing this event. More broadly the Cambridge and Boston communities – which many of you represent – have a long history of struggle against militarism and injustice, and it is gratifying to see this continue this morning.