Turner given peace award

Honor: The media mogul received the Albert Schweitzer medal at Hopkins.

October 02, 2001|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,SUN STAFF

Cable News Network founder Ted Turner told an audience at the Johns Hopkins University yesterday that the United States in recent years has "not lived up to its responsibility in the world" by resisting international efforts against global warming, racism and a missile defense shield.

Turner, vice chairman of AOL Time Warner Inc., appeared at Shriver Hall Auditorium to receive the 2001 Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism, which recognizes his philanthropic efforts to protect the natural world, promote peace and improve public health around the world.

Four years ago, Turner pledged $1 billion over 10 years to the United Nations Foundation. He has also pledged $250 million to establish the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an effort to reduce the threat of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

The 63-year-old Turner - who joins the company of fellow Schweitzer award winners former presidents George Bush and Jimmy Carter - spoke for 20 minutes about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, terrorism in general and what he sees as the United States' recent tendency to shrink from its proper role in world affairs.

In view of high-speed travel and global communications, Turner said "there is no faraway anymore. We all know we're on a tiny speck of a planet."

The onetime Barry Goldwater supporter turned champion of environmental protection and peace decried the Bush administration's decisions to withdraw from the U.N. conference on racism in South Africa this summer, to decline to sign the Kyoto pact on global warming and to pursue plans for a missile-defense system despite widespread international opposition.

"With power and wealth comes responsibility," said Turner, suggesting that the United States is spending too much of its international aid budget on supplying arms to foreign countries and not enough on humanitarian relief.

"There's a lot of misery in the world," said Turner, linking global hunger and poverty to suicide terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and elsewhere. He acknowledged that "it's conceivable" how both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could accuse the other of terrorism.

"Only miserable people, and those who feel they represent miserable people, will give their lives" in terrorist violence, said Turner.

The remarks suggested how Turner has developed a reputation for eccentricity in his speeches. He gave a rambling account of terrorism in many countries and a disjointed accounting of the monetary losses resulting from the Sept. 11 attacks. He variously referred to the catastrophe as occurring two weeks ago and "last Tuesday."

He said he'd been watching a lot of television and acknowledged that the facts and figures start "swirling around and get confused," but he estimated the cost of the September attacks at $2 trillion, or a quarter of the cost of the Cold War military buildup to the United States and the Soviet Union combined.

"Terrorism is almost impossible to stamp out," he said. "I hope we don't go over and start bombing innocent people like we did in Vietnam."

Turner closed with a warning about the potential for biological and even nuclear terrorist attacks, saying it's another reason to hasten efforts to do away with these weapons.

"It's depressing enough," he said. "But we'll survive somehow."

The Schweitzer awards - the Prize for Humanitarianism and Gold Medal - were established in 1986 and 1989 respectively by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which in turn was created by international grain merchant Alfred Toepfer. Hopkins was chosen to administer the Gold Medal awards in this country because of the university's ties to Germany. When it was founded in 1876, Hopkins was the first American university for graduate studies based on a German model of a research institution.

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