On a quiet November afternoon, Linda Richards sat down with her origami paper, offering out paper and guidance to make a peace crane. She folded as she spoke about her recent visit to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki official 65th commemorations in Japan, and her life mission of bringing awareness to global peace and nuclear disarmament.
When Richards was 9 she opened her June 1972 issue of Life and saw a picture of Kim Phuc running away after being napalmed. The image affected her so greatly that she has dedicated her life to learning more about the relationship between science, warfare, and for the last 25 years, she has been engaging the public about nuclear issues and conflict resolution in a array of environments, from the classroom to the streets. In 1986, Richards walked across the country from, Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., with the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.
“After the march I vowed to discuss and talk to someone every day about these issues. In the process I became a nuclear historian,” Richards said.
She is currently a student in the history of science Ph.D. program at Oregon State University. During her second year in the program, she designed and co-taught a course on nuclear history. In 2009–2010 she was awarded an Oregon University System Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leadership Fellowship for International Research to study nuclear history. During this summer, Richards represented the Mayors of both Ashland and Corvallis at the official Commemorations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Over the years she has organized and facilitated the annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki commemorations held in Ashland. Richards has yet to miss a commemoration.
“I was told that I couldn’t teach this subject until I’ve been to Hiroshima,” Richards explained. “Going to the commemorations allowed me to learn from the survivors. It was such an honor to be able to represent the people of Corvallis in Japan.”
Before Richards could go to Japan for the commemoration she was told visitors bring 1,000 peace cranes. The peace cranes are supposed to fulfill the prayers for peace for those who have died.
“If I didn’t have those 1,000 peace cranes I just wasn’t going to be able to go,” Richards said. “I was very fortunate to be put into contact with a professional peace crane folder here in Corvallis; Diane Smith. Diane helped me gather people to spend a day folding peace cranes. Within three hours we had 900 peace cranes. I’m so grateful to the all the people who helped me fold the peace cranes”
Richards has a B.S. in science and math, with a minor in peace studies from Southern Oregon University, as well as a master’s in nonprofit management. She is a certified Oregon Mediator and a certified American Friends Service Committee Non-Violence and Direct Action trainer.
Last year she collaborated with the OSU Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics program to collect oral histories of nuclear scientists (see the blog at: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/nuclearhistory/), and she toured the Hanford Nuclear Reservation with the Oregon Department of Energy and Oregon Hanford Waste Board. Richards is building the first-ever curriculum for a history course about nuclear disarmament and nuclear science specifically designed for Oregon State students.
Richards said she wants to cover all sides of the issue, which includes teaching the history of war and disarmament.
Over her years of research Richards has worked with many different people from all different backgrounds, including men and women in the armed forces who have helped with her research and studies.
“Unexpected friendships have a power all on their own,” Richards said. “If a student follows their passion then life may not work out the way they thought it would, but it’s always for the better.”
View more of Richards work at her website http://atomicvigil.net.
~ Makenzie Marineau