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Former Secretary of Defense
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry (left) participated in a question and answer session with participants following his keynote address to the annual Critical Issues Forum conference. The session was moderated by William Potter (right), founding director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute, co-host of the conference.

A multinational contingent of high school students had the opportunity to discuss nuclear security issues with former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry at a recent conference co-hosted by the Middlebury Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS). The April 15-16 Critical Issues Forum (CIF) conference brought students and teachers from 16 high schools around the world—seven in America, six in Japan, and three in Russia—to Santa Catalina School in Monterey.

Perry applauded CNS for convening the “unique and insightful” conference, emphasizing the importance of nonproliferation education to reduce nuclear dangers, and noting that starting such education in high school is an effective way to spark lifelong engagement. CNS Founding Director William Potter introduced Perry as a man whose name has become “synonymous with government service, integrity, and common sense,” highlighting his work on securing and dismantling nuclear stockpiles inherited by former Soviet states.

In a question and answer session following Perry’s keynote, students asked for his views North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the state of U.S.-Russia relations, nuclear terrorism, and nuclear policies in the context of the U.S. presidential election. During the regular conference sessions, student participants discussed these and related nuclear policy questions, as well as strategies for reducing the nuclear threat.

Graduate students from the Institute’s Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program also participated, explaining during a panel discussion how their coursework has influenced their career direction, and sharing stories from internships and professional positions at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference and other international organizations. Participants subsequently quizzed the Institute students about educational and career opportunities in nonproliferation and disarmament.

The timely gathering, which was covered by Japanese media as well as the Monterey Herald, took place soon after the final Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. and a Group of Seven Foreign Ministers meeting in Hiroshima. (Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida sent a congratulatory message to the conference participants, delivered by Japanese Consul General Jun Yamada.) The conference received underwriting support from the United States-Japan Foundation and the Tokyo Club. For more information on the Critical Issues Forum, visit the program website.

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir