On Tues. Feb. 3, at 4 p.m. Fordham will join 30 colleges and universities nationwide for the National Screening Day of The Man Who Saved the World, a soon-to-be released film that tells the story of Soviet Lt. Colonel Stanislav Petrov. Petrov singlehandedly averted a nuclear war in 1983 by deciding to follow conscience over protocol.
Assistant Professor Michael Peppard, Ph.D., of the Theology Department, coordinated with the film’s producers to have the film screened at Fordham in Freeman Hall 103.
Peppard said that nuclear issues might seem like a somewhat dated issue for students: Unlike many of their professors who recall grade-school bomb drills that sent them hiding under their desks, today’s students are more familiar with freewheeling terrorism than with nuclear threats still posed by nation states.
Indeed, the film is a flashback of sorts, exploring the height of the Cold War just before Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev shifted away from confrontation and signed the START Treaty that eventually wound down the Cold War and dismantled the Soviet Union.
But Peppard said the issue is contemporary, in that many of those same weapons rest now in unstable nation-states, like the Ukraine.
“What this film does well is highlight the very real possibility of human error that could have world catastrophic events,” said Peppard.
He noted that President Barack Obama warned of the aging inventory in a 2009 speech in Prague, where he called the thousands of nukes “the Cold War’s most dangerous legacy.”
“Nuclear weapons have moved back into the center as a moral issue, beginning with that speech,” he said.
Peppard said that students should be reminded that Gorbachev’s and Reagan’s ultimate goal was to eliminate all nukes from the planet.
“There is danger of these weapons falling into disrepair, into the wrong hands, or being no longer protected inside of fallen states,” he said.
While the film’s premise hangs on events happening on an international stage, it also hinges on Petrov’s personal struggle to disobey protocol and do the right thing–eventually saving millions of lives.
“The film looks at one person who was in a position of power and had to make a judgment call,” he said. “That’s what the movie dramatizes and what we need to think about.”
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