by Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
I made my annual pilgrimage to the Time magazine luncheon designed to narrow down the nominees for "____— of the Year" on the cover of Time. Forgive the blank, but over the years it's been a noun, a pronoun, a proper noun -- it's been a lot of things. My nominee was a woman -- a victim of abuse. A strong, resilient woman who is a constant topic of discussion these days: Mother Earth. The undercurrent of the conversation seemed to be the confluence of our burgeoning media age (and the celebration and empowerment of the individual) and our dangerous world -- and all those brave Americans who have volunteered to go fight our battles.
Tonight we're watching the economy, toy safety, politics, the environment, and more. We'll have a wonderful Medal of Honor profile, and even a celebrity profile. With all the bad news these days, it's important to lighten up on occasion, or so I've learned.
Speaking of bad news, the news out of Pakistan in recent days is so alarming in part because it represents more instability in an already dangerous part of the world. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the sixth most populous nation on earth. It shares borders with Iraq and Afghanistan -- two countries where America is at war -- as well as with China and India, a country that Pakistan itself has long been at odds with. The lawless tribal area of northwest Pakistan is believed to be the hiding place of none other than Osama bin Laden. But the biggest cause for concern is that Pakistan has something that countries such as Iran, North Korea and Iraq have long wanted for themselves: Pakistan has nuclear weapons.
For those of us who grew up during the Cold War, the nuclear threat seemed pretty much confined to the Soviet Union. When the Cold War ended, many hoped that the threat of nuclear war ended with it. Sadly, that has not been the case. And that draws us back to something an earlier American president said 50 years ago today. On November 8, 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the new headquarters of the Atomic Energy Commission near Washington, and took the occasion to spell out the dangers -- and the opportunities -- posed by nuclear power, which was then still a relatively recent discovery. Eisenhower's speech that day is no less relevant today. Here's part of what he said:
"When man discovered fire, he found possibly the greatest secret that has ever yet been brought to man's knowledge for his betterment. It is difficult to imagine a world without fire. Yet fire is also used in bombs in war... The discovery itself was good but men can make good or evil use of it... And so in this modern time man has discovered another of the great secrets of nature. What differentiates it from all others is the terrible possibilities it opens for wicked men, people who want to use this new discovery for the destruction of mankind now have placed in their hands a power that certainly should give all of us pause. It should awaken man's conscience and appeal to his common sense. Because not only does it bring a sudden possibility of self-destruction but on the other side of that same coin again we have new possibilities for good... That is the kind of choice that men must soon face up to, and we must do our part to see that the choice is correctly made. Man's judgment and intelligence must measure up quickly to his inventive genius or mankind's future is bleak indeed."
-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, November 8, 1957
We hope you can join us tonight for the Thursday edition of Nightly News.