Summer 2019 President's Letter

Greetings WPSR Members, Volunteers, and Supporters,

Thank you so much for all that you do to make our work possible.  

I am often asked why WPSR isn’t working on or supporting a particular issue or cause that many of us would find in line with our values.   The simple answer is that we are too small to make an effective difference in every worthy issue that poses a serious threat to human health.  In choosing nuclear weapons, the climate crisis, and economic inequity, we focus on areas that pose grave threats to human health and survival that cannot be addressed by pharmaceutical or surgical means, nor by individual lifestyle choices.  They are major societal threats, but they are not the only major threats.  We have a dedicated core of volunteers supported by a very small but talented staff.  We will take on what we can with the resources we have with the firm resolve to make this world a more peaceful, just and equitable place suitable for continued health and happiness of the human species.  

Since its founding, Physicians for Social Responsibility has worked tirelessly on the threat of nuclear weapons.   The extinction of the human species could occur in a matter of days or weeks, resulting from the whims of supposed “leaders” with sole authority to launch a nuclear attack.  Even a limited nuclear conflict would cause immediate and widespread death, injury and destruction that would overwhelm our emergency response capacity.  We, therefore, remain committed to preventing that which we cannot treat or cure.  The current haphazard and thoughtless US foreign policy - backing out of nuclear treaties, sowing discord, and promoting conflict - means that the risk of a nuclear attack is rising.   Backing out of the Iran agreement, ending the INF treaty, and playing games on the Korean Peninsula threaten us all.  At this moment, we cannot back down.  Fortunately, WPSR is taking a lead in resisting this lunacy. 

Our nuclear weapons program continues to work to rebuild the anti-nuclear movement in Washington, leading the way in establishing a broad-based coalition of organizations.  The Washington Against Nuclear Weapons Coalition includes over 45 peace advocacy, faith-based, social justice, labor, health, and educational organizations, and is now the largest state-level anti-nuclear coalition in the country. We will continue to successfully mobilize and focus this movement to educate and pressure our members of Congress to support nuclear weapons policies that reduce both the risks of their use and the size of US arsenals, with the goal of elimination.   Our persistent and consistent messaging to our elected officials is beginning to pay off.  We are particularly pleased with Congressman Adam Smith, as chair of the House Armed Services Committee, stepping up to sponsor a bill prohibiting the first use of nuclear weapons and calling for a reduction in the number of warheads in our ridiculously redundant nuclear triad.   The No First Use Bill has three co-sponsors from our state, Representatives Heck, Larsen, and Jayapal.   We will continue to work with the rest of our delegation to win their support for sane nuclear policies.  

It is from a position of a growing, strong and healthy program that I announce a transition in our Nuclear Weapons task force leadership.  After many years at the helm of our nuclear weapons program, Dr. Bruce Amundson has decided to step down as task force co-chair.  We are very grateful for everything he has done to make our organization as a whole successful, respected and well-positioned for the future.  At one point he was serving as chapter president and co-chair of both the climate and nuclear weapons task forces.   It is a testament to the depth and strength of our current volunteers that Bruce no longer has to do everything.  He continues to serve on the board as Vice President and remains highly active both in our program and organizational work.  I’m personally very grateful for Bruce’s mentorship in my role as your chapter President.   I am very happy to announce that Dr. Joe Berkson has agreed to take on the role of Nuclear Weapons Task Force Co-Chair.  Joe has been an anti-nuclear activist since he was in high school and a member of WPSR since 1985.  He practiced family medicine at Group Health for many years and served as Chief of Staff at the Eastside and Bellevue Clinics.  Recently retired from practice, Joe has now directed his energies toward nuclear weapons abolition with boundless enthusiasm.   We are lucky to have him stepping up to lead.  

We continue to face serious challenges.  The status quo that maintains a dangerous and outdated defense policy, a dependence on dirty, dangerous and unhealthy fossil fuels, and propagates economic injustice will not be changed easily or quickly.   The respected voice of health professionals on these issues is necessary to win the hearts and minds of both our elected officials and the general public.  

What can you do to help?  First and foremost, stay engaged by renewing your membership and supporting our work.  If you have the time and the passion to take it to the next level, consider joining one of our three task forces.    

With Gratitude and in Peace,
Mark Vossler, MD