Salem Peace Lecture to discuss nuclear weapons abolition

This year’s Salem Peace Lecture will return to the subject that helped create the series in the first place: nuclear weapons abolition. 

The annual lecture at Willamette University, held Wednesday, features Dr. Ira Helfand, who’s on the board of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, which received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

In the late 1980s, the nonprofit Salem Peace Plaza formed in-part due to movements inspired by the 1983 movie “The Day After,” and conversations between Salem and its sister city of Simferopol in Crimea, said Fariborz Pakseresht, a member of the Peace Lecture Committee.

Collaborating with several other groups, including Willamette University, Salem Peace Plaza began the lecture series in 1990 with the goal of leading discussions about peaceful solutions to various issues. 

“So, 33 years after the start of this lecture series we thought we’d go back to the root of what created this organization,” Pakseresht said. 

Helfand has presented on international stages, including the United Nations General Assembly, and has published studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal and more. He previously served as president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

“He has done a lot of research around nuclear weapons and the physical and medical consequences of nuclear war,”  Pakseresht said. “So he was just the natural choice around someone who actually knows this issue and also is a physician and can provide information that people may need.”

The Salem Peace Lecture is free to attend and will be held at Willamette University’s Smith Auditorium on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. The lecture will also be live streamed on Willamette University’s YouTube page.

That night, Salem Peace Plaza will also honor the recipient of the Salem Peace Lecture Committee’s Peacemaker of the Year award: Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, or PCUN, a statewide farm workers union based in Woodburn.

The organization was founded in 1985 with a goal to strengthen farmworker’s rights and increase wages to support working Latino families.

Helfand will also speak at Oregon State University the next day, Oct. 27, at 2 p.m. The event is free and located in Room 13 of the Memorial Union.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.