2008 Annual Gala—Honoring Heroes
By Natalia Koteva, MPT — PSR-LA Ambassador
Having grown up in Bulgaria, Eastern Europe during the times of the Eastern bloc, I have witnessed how efforts of organizations such as Physicians for Social Responsibility and activists for social change were kept “quiet.” In fact, I remember the first non-profits emerging only after the fall of the bloc. I feel so proud and honored to be a part of PSR-LA, where like-minded, determined, and fearless individuals (be it professionals, intellectuals, or simply pro-active citizens) powerfully come together to stand up for social justice and human rights.
I had the privilege and honor to witness first-hand the potential, impact, and importance of Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA) at their 2008 Annual Gala Dinner, Prescription for Change.
The Gala Dinner was held on June 8th at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel. Attended by a diverse variety of professionals, from health care practitioners to students, the dinner housed the spirit of a generation devoted to social change.
Honored were Dr. Hans Blix, Dr. James Yamazaki, M.D., Lawrence Bender, and Joseph Cirincione. Emcee of the evening was PSR National President, Dr. Erica Frank, M.D., M.P.H. Gustavo Santaolalla performed as the special musical guest, and a musical tribute to Dr. Yamazaki was presented by June Kuramoto and Kimo Cornwell. The gala dinner was dedicated to the memory of Saul Niedorf, M.D., beloved child and adolescent psychiatrist and a long time PSR-LA member.
Dr. Carmine Clemente, Ph.D. presented Dr. James Yamazaki with the Socially Responsible Medicine Award for his lifelong work on the effects of radiation on public health. Dr. Clemente is the author of the seminal text “Clemente’s Anatomy” and has taught nearly every UCLA medical student since the medical school opened.
In Dr. Yamazaki’s acceptance remarks, he stated “… to prevent another nuclear holocaust, neutralizing the threat of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction must be the primary objective of all people. We must recognize and struggle for the right of all people in the world and future generations to live in peace. Security lies in peace not weapons.”
With his unwavering commitment towards creating a more peaceful world, Dr. Yamazaki has continued to testify to government commissions to promote nuclear disarmament. Visit ChildrenOfTheAtomicBomb.com to learn more about Dr. Yamazaki’s life and work.
Dr. Hans Blix accepted the 2008 Peacemaker Award via video. The award was presented to him in early April by Tova Fuller, a PSR-LA Board Member and dual M.D./Ph.D. UCLA student, and Dr. Bennett Ramberg, former State Department policy analyst and coordinator of the Global Security Seminars. Dr. Blix served as head of the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq and courageously opposed proponents of war, stating that Iraq had probably destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction in the early 1990s. He later declared the war illegal.
PSR-LA was proud to honor Lawrence Bender with the Socially Responsible Media Award for using his innovative filmmaking talents to create social change. The award was presented by Dean Ornish, M.D., founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute.
In his speech, Bender said that “…groups like this [PSR-LA] are so important because without groups like this, there’s no hope. And groups like this give us hope because this is where the rubber hits the ground…it is an honor to be here with people like you, who are actually doing the hard work.”
Bender’s award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth has inspired the public to take unprecedented political and personal action to stop climate change. At present, Bender is working on a documentary about nuclear weapons that will be debuted as part of the World Security Institute campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Joseph Cirincione was honored with the Founders Award. The award was presented by Karl Raustiala, Ph.D., J.D., Director of the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.
Cirincione is the president of the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. He has served previously as senior vice president for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress and as director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and served as a staff director in the US House of Representatives. In May 2004, the National Journal listed Cirincione as one of the 100 people whose ideas will shape the policies of the next administration.
In his closing remarks, Cirincione affirmed that “…thanks to some of the people here today, we see a movement arising and a greater public awareness about the need to take action on global warming. We are seeing that same movement open up a nuclear policy…We can take the policies that have brought us to the brink of annihilation, walk them back, and not just reduce nuclear weapons but, yes, eliminate nuclear weapons.”
Cirincione continued: “This is the moment…Now I understand that you have been through a lot and I understand that you might be cynical or skeptical about our ability to do that. They are too strong. We are too few. Let me just remind you about some of things that were impossible that I have seen happen in my life. I have seen the Vietnam War end and Vietnam unite…and pilots who once bombed that land welcomed in the spirit of peace and reconciliation…I have seen the people of Eastern Europe overthrow their oppressors and make their nations free and democratic… I have
seen a man walk out of a prison cell that held him for a 26 years to become the president of a free South Africa ruled finally by the majority of the people in that land. I have seen a Europe, which was at a war with itself for millennia now stands united, democratic and at peace. I have seen the Boston Red Sox win the World Series…twice…don’t tell me we can’t do this. Don’t tell me, we can’t reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons. I respond to you with the same three words that have started a political transformation in this country and with any luck will lead to a strategic transformation of our nuclear policy. You think we can’t eliminate nuclear weapons? – YES, WE CAN!”
A Word from Natalia Koteva, PSR-LA Member
The 2008 PSR-LA Gala Dinner was a beautiful event showered by the presence of brilliant minds, dedicated members, and committed activists. We all share in the same passionate drive that propels us in our work, that is, PSR-LA’s slogan “to prevent what we cannot cure.”
As a student attending, I felt so grateful to have had the opportunity to not only be in the same space but actually have dinner and enjoy beautiful performances with such outstanding and inspirational leaders, many of whom are my role models. I experienced the power of collective consciousness and effort.