Commonwealth National Podcast

Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry: A Personal Journey to Reduce the Nuclear Threat

William Perry, Ph.D., U.S. Secretary of Defense 1994-97;Senior Fellow, Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute and Hoover Institution; Author, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink

Gloria Duffy, Ph.D., President and CEO, The Commonwealth Club; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Clinton Administration—Moderator

Part of The Club's Good Lit Series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Here’s a chance to meet a remarkable statesman whose career has spanned academia, industry, entrepreneurship, government and diplomacy. Dr. Perry has dealt first-hand with the changing nuclear threat and worked to mitigate it. He was one of the Silicon Valley’s early entrepreneurs, founding a company that pioneered digital technologies in the race to understand the Soviet nuclear missile arsenal. His expertise led to advising the government on national security, including an urgent summons in October 1962 asking him to serve on the secret team analyzing U-2 photos exposing the Soviet installation of nuclear armed missiles in Cuba. Perry’s appointment as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering in the late 1970s put him at the helm of crafting a defense strategy that would usher in the age of stealth, smart weapons, GPS, and sophisticated technologies and weaponry that changed the face of modern warfare.

As secretary of defense, Dr. Perry galvanized efforts to secure nuclear stockpiles inherited by former Soviet states and presided over the dismantlement of more than 8,000 nuclear weapons. Since then he has unrelentingly practiced a unique form of diplomacy that blends his warm personal relationships with officials in many countries with diplomatic initiatives focusing on the world’s most critical security hotspots, including North Korea, Iran, Russia and China. In 2007, Dr. Perry, George Shultz, Sam Nunn and Henry Kissinger together formed the Nuclear Security Project, to share the vision of a world free from nuclear weapons with urgent but practical steps that can be taken immediately to reduce nuclear dangers. To implement this imperative, Dr. Perry also founded the William J. Perry Project in 2013, educating a new generation of young people to understand the nuclear threat and work to eliminate it.