In 1996, the only structure left standing in the area of Hiroshima where the first atomic bomb exploded on 6 August 1945 was inscribed on the World Heritage List as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) as a stark and powerful symbol of the most destructive force ever created by humankind; and also to express the hope for world peace and the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Today, Barack Obama become the first sitting US President to visit this World Heritage site. His remarks this morning were an eloquent testimony to importance of the Peace Memorial site and indeed to the universal power of heritage for peace. “It is not the fact of war that sets Hiroshima apart” as artifacts on every continent tell the history of civilization filled with war. So, “Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima?” the President asked. In answering his own question, he observed:
Some day, the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.
“Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well,” he said.
“That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.
. . . we come to Hiroshima . . . So that we might think of people we love. The first smile from our children in the morning. The gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table. The comforting embrace of a parent. We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here, 71 years ago.
Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.”