Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry was 35 the first time he was told the world might be on the verge of nuclear destruction.
It was 1962, and the Soviet Union was staging nuclear missiles in Cuba, leading to a standoff with the U.S. that would last 13 days but lead to withdrawal of the weapons. In his memoir, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, Perry wrote that the crisis was the beginning of his career spent moderating the diplomatic tug of war required to prevent a nuclear crisis. That career included three years as defense secretary under President Bill Clinton.
On Sunday at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, Perry will be the keynote speaker for the Santa Fe Nuclear Weapons Summit, part of the Disruptive Futures project by the nonprofit Creative Santa Fe.
“I can think of no better place to discuss rising nuclear dangers than in New Mexico given the state’s important history and contribution to the security of our country,” Perry said in a prepared statement.
Perry will be joined by journalist Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.
Tickets are $15 each.
About 50 scientists, filmmakers, environmentalists, business executives, actors, artists and policymakers from around the nation will attend the three-day summit. The attendees will tour Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
Creative Santa Fe and its partners — the Nuclear Threat Initiative, N Square, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and PopTech — are hoping the summit will stimulate a dialogue on nuclear weapons that extends beyond political and scientific circles to include creative minds in artistic, technological and diplomatic fields.
The summit attendees will be divided into groups and will imagine the year 2045 and how the world’s relationship with nuclear technology will have evolved. The year 2045 will be the 100th anniversary of the birth of nuclear weapons.
Working sessions of the attendees will be closed to the public. Discussion facilitators will include former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and former Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, a Santa Fe resident.
The summit will conclude Wednesday morning at Violet Crown Cinema, where the participants will make a public presentation on their ideas on how to make a safer world.
Cyndi Conn, executive director of Creative Santa Fe, called the summit “a boot camp for nuclear weapons issues.”
“The goal is that each of these leaders go back to their different industries and disciplines talking about nuclear weapons in an effort to resolve some of these issues,” Conn said.
Creative Santa Fe chose nuclear weapons as the first event in its Disruptive Futures series because of the legacy of nuclear weapons in New Mexico and because of the escalating threat of nuclear weapons in the past decades, she said.
The chief goal of the organization is to reprogram the culture of Santa Fe and attract more young people. “We thought, ‘What if Santa Fe became a global designation for solving complex problems in art, science [and other fields]?’ ” Conn said.
As part of the summit, Zero Days, a documentary thriller about cyberwar, will be shown Saturday morning at the Violet Crown Cinema. Also Saturday, Schlosser’s film Command & Control will be shown at the Center for Contemporary Arts. There will be a question-and-answer session with Schlosser.