It was midmorning in early April 2009, and a crowd had gathered in Prague’s Hradcany Square to hear the American president speak. As Barack Obama took the stage, an assortment of small flags from many nations waved from outstretched hands. The sky behind him, a mix of fog and light, took on a yellow glow.
“Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century,” Obama said, “we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. … As a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.”
This moment laid the groundwork for a shift in policymaking and activism surrounding nuclear disarmament — denouncing nuclear weapons not merely as untenable, politicized tools of warfare but as among the world’s gravest humanitarian crises, said Michael Spies, a former Santa Fe resident who, somewhat unintentionally, has spent much of his adult life working on nuclear weapons policy.