Memories and a message of hope from the first WAND president
By Sayre Sheldon, WAND Board Member
Desperation must not lead to despair but to determination. This last word takes me back almost 40 years to the first WAND Mother's Day Action on Boston Common. I see in my head a large black and white photograph of a crowded group of people sitting on a hilly corner of Boston Common. Many of them are young people but their faces are thoughtful, even grim. I know they have been listening to a speech about what a nuclear weapon would do to Boston by Dr. Helen Caldicott who will soon help a group of us start WAND. The photograph is very personal for me because I can see my son and his wife sitting in the upper part of the photograph. Their faces are somber but I know that, as they would say, "they are pregnant," and I know that for the first time in my life I will be a grandmother.
I also know that they and their child will be living in a country with a chain of linked commands capable of starting a nuclear war which could destroy the entire world and that one person, our president, has the power to set in motion.
I can flash back to the following May when there was a much bigger WAND event and Helen Caldicott held up my beautiful five-month-old granddaughter to the crowd to say, "Look at her—she's waving to you! And we are here to make sure she will have a long life ahead of her!" By this time WAND had a poster with the words "Children Ask the World of Us."
A few years later in 1987, I drove all over the U.S. to visit WAND chapters in many states. As the former first WAND president, I was received like a celebrity, with TV programs and newspaper interviews these hard-working groups had arranged. But it was our discussions together that showed me how many WAND members were learning how to stand up at a political rally and ask the candidate how he could justify spending billions of our tax dollars on one plane! I returned from that tour elevated by what I had learned but also with the knowledge that humanity's deep desire to protect their young was outraged by a government that tolerated a continuing threat to the entire world.
All these years later and the nuclear clock has only shortened the distance to blowing us up. Shame on humanity! I know Helen agrees—she emails me from Australia. We've exchanged pictures of our grandchildren. They are still in danger, not only from a rapidly warming planet and a world pandemic but today an angry man still has access to our nuclear weapon for a few more days as our president.
WAND's determination to change this danger has never wavered. There, I used the hopeful word I began with—determination. I could add hope because so many more people today are aware that we and other nuclear nations have kept the world in mortal danger. Seeing the attack on the center of our government was horrifying but only strengthened our determination to see that we or any other nation never face this predicament again. The fight to rid the world of nuclear weapons isn't over although today the one hundred and ninety three nations without nuclear weapons have joined together to declare them illegal under the proud acronym ICAN - International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
Together, we as WAND supporters feel a greater determination than ever.