Each time Rick Wayman walks into his office, he is reminded about why he wages for peace.
Sitting on the mantle of his Anacapa Street office directly behind his desk are two plants. While at first glance these might just seem to be decorative pieces to create a healthy working environment, these two plants have a deeper meaning.
They are cuttings from a tree that survived “Little Boy,” the uranium gun-type bomb that destroyed nearly five square miles of the city of Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945, leaving some 80,000 people dead and injuring thousands of others.
“I walk into my office every morning and that’s the first thing I see,” Mr. Wayman told the News-Press. “It’s a really wonderful, tangible reminder. Not only that we’re doing this for the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to ensure that there are no other cities that this happens to ever again, but it’s also a symbol of resilience. This tree survived and now it’s all over the world.”
Mr. Wayman and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation received the plants as part of a program called “Green Legacy Hiroshima.” Seed or seedlings are disbursed to various places around the world where the message of a world without nuclear weapons would proliferate, serving as a welcome addition in the office of the local nonprofit.
Mr. Wayman, 40, has been recently appointed as President and CEO of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is taking over for David Krieger, who founded the foundation back in 1982 and served as president for the past 38 years. Mr. Wayman has been with NAPF since 2007, when he was named as director of programs, but his passion for world peace traces back a bit farther than that.
In the spring of 2003, Mr. Wayman was living in Scotland after college. As the U.S. and U.K. were invading Iraq, Mr. Wayman felt a sense of concern and injustice and wanted to get involved. He ended up befriending people who worked with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and attended an event with two Hiroshima survivors. What he now calls a “series of coincidence” or “fortunate events” helped him find his path.
“I had never really thought deeply about the issue of nuclear weapons before, but when I heard them speak, when I heard them give their first-person experience of what happened on that day, I decided that I wanted to do something,” he said. “I didn’t decide ‘I’m gonna make this my job and do this to support my family,’ but it made me know that in my heart I had to do something.
“That event with the survivors, it opened up this new world to me. It was a perspective I had never heard before, it was a perspective I had never considered before. It was pretty mind blowing for me.”
Mr. Wayman, who is a dual citizen, had received his master’s in nonprofit management and political advocacy from the School for International Training in Vermont and interned with the CND in London before working for them full-time for about two years.
He joined the NAPF a few years later, and for the past 12.5 years he worked under Mr. Krieger. He credits the former president for getting him prepared to take over the foundation, as well as laying the groundwork for the foundation’s future endeavors.
“For as many changes that we’re going to be making in 2020 and moving forward, we’re always going to stay true to our founding purpose, which is to discover and spread what we see as solutions for peace in the age in which nuclear weapons exist,” Mr. Wayman said. “That’s going to change over time. We were founded in 1982 ﹘﹘ that world is way different than the 2020 world.”
Mr. Wayman will look to continue what Mr. Krieger considered one of the foundation’s guiding principles ﹘﹘ what he would call “shameless idealism.” It means staying true to their vision, carrying out how they want to see the world.
“We’re definitely going to keep doing that,” he said. “That’s really part of our DNA as an organization.”
Over the past few weeks, the NAPF has updated its mission statement and vision to reflect a new initiative called “Peace Literacy,” an educational framework that teaches people the skills needed to proactively understand, confront and heal the root causes of crucial issues.
Mr. Wayman compared it to a basketball team full of players who have never learned the game. They can’t dribble or shoot, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be coached.
“That’s how we see peace as well. It’s complicated, it’s hard, but we’re not taught how to do it and we need to do that,” he said. “We can’t be surprised that there are mass shootings at schools. We can’t be surprised that there are wars, that there are nuclear weapons in the world. Not only have we not been taught peace, individually and in our society, we’re very often taught the opposite of that. And the behaviors that are opposite to that are reinforced through various parts of our culture. So it can’t be a surprise that we are where we are right now, but we believe that it’s not hopeless. We have very realistic hope that we can change the way that people relate to each other and to the world if we take this seriously ﹘﹘ we meaning society and we meaning the education system. “
The NAPF recently conducted a pilot program in Corvallis, Oregon, where teachers were trained by Paul Chappell, NAPF’s Peace Literacy Director, to deliver three hours of curriculum about the concept of aggression. The results showed that the education could have serious impacts on how people can live peacefully.
“These are skills that people need to be taught,” Mr. Wayman said. “We can’t just expect that people automatically know them.”
Within the next 10 years, NAPF hopes to have Peace Literacy recognized as a universal human right, much like literacy and reading skills are now. With a high demand for its services, the foundation is hoping to hire more people ﹘﹘ locally, nationally and internationally ﹘﹘ to train people how to deliver this content. In the near term, the NAPF will be doing its first training with early childhood educators and Santa Barbara County this spring to teach them about Peace Literacy.
“Little kids, they mimic what they see and they learn what is modeled to them. So if we’re able to train these teachers and these pre-school administrators in Peace Literacy, we’re really excited about the prospects of that transferring directly – not even trickling down – just a direct translation to the kids,” he said.
Mr. Wayman’s journey for world peace has taken him around the globe. He has talked with the Pope about nuclear weapons, and the foundation shared the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for achieving the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
“There’s no way that any of that would have been on the table. I would have never imagined that stuff would happen, but here we are. Because we never gave up, because we believed in what we are doing, and we have people all over the world that believe in it as well,” he said.
While he and the foundation have been persistent over the years ﹘﹘ with no signs of slowing ﹘﹘ Mr. Wayman is a firm believer that society can change the course of history.
“For me, the other option is giving up,” he said. “If I give up, I don’t know how I’d get up in the morning. I have to believe that another world is possible, otherwise, for me, there’s no point in being here.”