Here are the words of this speech by Óscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former president of Costa Rica. I heard this call to action the other day, and I was so inspired by it…. I went online to look for the transcript, but it wasn’t anywhere online, so I typed it out. If you know how bad a typer I am, you will understand how completely awesome and important I think his words are. The video is above, and the transcript is below. Enjoy!
“On this Global Day of Action on Military Spending, I speak to you across many miles. I speak to you without knowing who will hear my words. I speak to you without seeing your faces, hearing your voices, or knowing your names…. But I do know that I am speaking to friends, for we are never strangers when we share a common cause. We are never far apart when we are united by the same quest. You and I are drawn together today by our desire to change the world’s insane addiction to excessive military spending, and to build a better future. You and I share a commitment to rewrite a story of humanity—A story that is sometimes triumphant, sometimes tragic, and nearly always violent. You and I are partners in the struggle for PEACE.
My country, Costa Rica, has shown what a reduction in military spending can do for a society. In 1948, my country made a voluntary decision that no other country had ever undertaken—To abolish its army, and declare PEACE to the world. By doing this, my country promised me, and all its children, that we would never see tanks or troops in our streets. My country promised me, and all its children, that it would invest–Not in the weapons of our past, but in the tools of our future. Not in barracks, but in schools, hospitals and National Parks. Not in soldiers, but in teachers, doctors, and park guards. My country promised to dismantle the institutions of violence, and invest in the progress that makes violence unnecessary. Quite simply, my country invested in its people.
This has resulted, not only in a healthy, educated, and free society—It has resulted in concrete gains for national and regional security. It has taught us that security does not lie in weapons or fences or armies–Security lies in human development.
I know that the rest of the world is not ready to follow Costa Rica’s path, but any reduction in military spending can have a profound effect on the poverty, hunger, disease, and inequality that cause unrest and violence. If we continue to focus on weapons and soldiers at the expense of basic human needs, no real security will ever be possible. Yet this truth has been lost on many world leaders, who continue to squander their extensive resources on their armies. Government military expenditures reached $1.73 TRILLION in 2011, representing 2.5% of the world’s GDP. This was done in a world where 925 MILLION PEOPLE go to bed hungry every night. This was done in a world where 16,000 CHILDREN DIE EVERY DAY from hunger-related causes. This was done, even though a fraction of these funds could equip all homes with electricity, achieve universal literacy, and eradicate all preventable diseases. Such an act is not only foolish…. It is immoral.
Eleanor Roosevelt once asked, “When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery, rather than to avenge it?” I’m afraid that we must answer her, “Not yet…. Not yet.”
But despite all of this, this is a day of promise–Not a day of despair. For HOPE is among us, when people all over the world are gathered together to call for change. HOPE is among us, when men and women from every country and every background recognize that the tools to change the world really are within our grasp. HOPE is among us, when we are willing to dedicate our time and energy to writing a new story for humankind.
May this global day of action renew that HOPE in all of our hearts, and may it bring us closer to the time when PEACE, and not violence, will become the birthright of our sons and our daughters. Thank you very much.” ~ Óscar Arias, President of Costa Rica 1986-1990 and 2006-2010, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1987