“The Start of Our Own Moral Awakening”
Nearly 71 years after the first atomic strike, the U.S. president calls for the end of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima.
HIROSHIMA, Japan—Nearly 71 years after an American bomber passed high above this Japanese city on a clear August morning on a mission that would alter history, U.S. President Barack Obama made a solemn visit to Hiroshima to offer respects to the victims of the world’s first deployed atomic bomb.
In the Hiroshima Peace Park guest book, Obama wrote:
“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.” In later remarks, he said that scientific strides must be matched by moral progress or mankind was doomed.
“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”
Obama’s May 27 visit, the first to Hiroshima by a sitting U.S. president, had stirred great anticipation here and across Japan among those who longed for an American leader to acknowledge the suffering of the estimated 140,000 killed during the bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, and its aftermath.
Three days after the Hiroshima bombing in 1945, a second U.S. atomic bomb hit Nagasaki, killing a total of 80,000. Most of those killed in both cities were civilians. The Japanese emperor announced his nation’s surrender a week later.
On the day of the event, Obama was handed a wreath; he laid it on a stand in front of the cenotaph. He bowed his head and stood silently for a minute.
“We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past,” Obama said. The souls of the people who died in this city “speak to us,” he added. “They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.”
The president called for nations to reconsider the development of nuclear weapons and to roll back and “ultimately eliminate” them.
“The world was forever changed here,” he said. “But today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is the future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not for the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
-by David Nakamura © 2016, with reporting from Carol Morello and Steven Mufson, The Washington Post