Oliver Stone, Academy award-winning filmmaker and veteran political activist, and Peter Kuznick, Head of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, will present the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 16th Annual Frank K. Kelly Lecture on Humanity’s Future on Thursday, February 23, at 7:00 p.m. at the Lobero Theater.
Stone and Kuznick collaborated for five years to produce their 12-part documentary film, The Untold History of the United States, and the companion book of the same title. Provocative and often controversial, the film and book probe beneath the surface of seminal events in American history, such as the 1944 Democratic National Convention that saw a little known or regarded Harry S. Truman anointed by Democratic Party bosses as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s running mate instead of Henry A. Wallace, a progressive popular with rank and file Democrats — shades of 2016 when the Democratic National Committee worked against Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary Clinton. Stone and Kuznick argue that had Wallace succeeded Roosevelt instead of Truman, atomic bombs may not have been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the immediate post-war period may have taken a different turn.
Untold History, Uncertain Future is the apt title of Stone and Kuznick’s lecture. In a time of political uncertainty at home, and strategic challenges abroad, including questions about nuclear arms, it’s vital for policy makers and citizens to understand how the past informs the present. The recent executive order issued by the Trump White House on immigration may, for example, seem Draconian, but it isn’t the first time the United States has headed down an “America First” or nativist path. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Immigration Act of 1924 targeted particular people of specific ethnicities, too. Perhaps more important, understanding history and questioning the orthodox narrative is critical to developing sufficient empathy to appreciate that the intentions of the United States and its NATO allies can appear menacing when viewed from Moscow, Tehran, or Beijing. Empathy on that level is sorely lacking in Washington.