At the age of seventy-eight very few objects have any meaning at all for me. My husband and I have downsized twice, ending up in an apartment so that we don’t have to worry even about inside repairs. Most things we have managed to find room for here are simply practical. So, I tried to think of what I would try to save in case of fire.
Many years ago when our house was threatened by fire, I loaded up our station wagon with my husband’s suits so he could continue to work, our large collection of family photo albums and several paintings I had done. By now, I’ve given most of my paintings to my children and the albums are being left in storage for them to sort out and divide. The truth is, I’ve always been focused on the future and my main interest has been in ideas that can help humanity survive and evolve.
The only object in our house that couldn’t be replaced and that has implications for the future of humanity is a letter signed by Albert Einstein in 1947 to my father, Ralph S. O’Leary, who was an award winning newspaper reporter at that time.
Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists
Trustees: Albert Einstein, Chairman; Harold C. Urey, Vice-Chairman; Hans A. Bethe; T.R. Hogness; Philip Morse; Linus Pauling; Leo Szilard; V. F. Weisskopf
Through the release of atomic energy, our generation has brought into the world the most revolutionary force since prehistoric man’s discovery of fire. This basic power of the universe cannot be fitted into the outmoded concept of narrow nationalisms. For there is no secret and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world.
We scientists recognize our inescapable responsibility to carry to our fellow citizens an understanding of the simple facts of atomic energy and their implications for society. In this lies our only security and our only hope – we believe that an informed citizenry will act for life and not for death.
We need $1,000,000 for this great educational task. Sustained by faith in man’s ability to control his destiny by exercise of reason, we have pledged all our strength and our knowledge to this work. I do not hesitate to call upon you to help.
Perhaps this can be a reminder to a world of proliferating nuclear arms from the very men whose brilliance brought them into the world, but who recognized their own responsibility for their danger to humanity.