November 2012 Ethical Hero – Tony de Brum

Published: November 12, 2012

By Jim Lichtman
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Every year since 1984, “The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation” has held its annual “Evening of Peace” dinner where they honor an individual with “The Distinguished Peace Leadership,” and/or “World Citizenship” award. For four out of the last five years, I have been fortunate to be invited to an event that continues to open my eyes to issues and individuals who make a difference in our world. Past recipients include Ted Turner, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Walter Cronkite and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

The Foundation’s mission is to “educate and advocate for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons and to empower peace leaders.”

This year’s recipient is no less distinguished as Director of Development and Communications Debra Roets makes clear in this biography.

Senator Tony de Brum has had a distinguished career in government in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (R.M.I.). He has spent his entire adult life working for peace, justice and a world free of nuclear weapons on behalf of the Marshall Islanders. He has served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Health and Environment. He currently serves as Minister in Assistance to the President and represents the people of Kwajalein in Parliament.

Senator de Brum has experienced first-hand the tragic effects of a world that maintains and uses nuclear weapons systems. Born in 1945, he grew up on the island of Likiep during the 12-year period when the United States tested 67 atomic and thermonuclear weapons in the atmosphere and underwater in the Marshall Islands (1946-1958). He personally witnessed most of the detonations that took place and was nine years old on March 1, 1954, when he experienced the most powerful of those explosions, code-name BRAVO.

One of the first Marshall Islanders to graduate from college, he focused on helping his people to extricate themselves from the legacy of U.S. nuclear testing in his island country. He played a key role in the negotiations that led to the first compact of free association between the U.S. and the R.M.I., and participated in the development of the Constitution of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Senator de Brum has also focused his attentions on the newly-defined challenges of global warming and its effects on atoll populations. He remains deeply engaged in seeking justice for the people of his country and an end to the nuclear threats that confront humanity.

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