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Women speak out on nuclear issues

Participants from across the country heard these voices at the fourth annual Women's Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. Betty Bumpers, Founder and president, Peace Links:

Women much more readily accept the notion that nuclear weapons cannot protect us without threatening our own survival. For that reason women are ready and eager to pursue alternative ways of dealing with the international conflicts that will constantly occur. . . . Women want to find safer ways to protect themselves and their families. We need to spend more time focused on the solution and less time on the problem. Kathy Bushkin, Executive editor, U.S. News & World Report:

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We've got to talk about the issue in practical terms that most Americans can understand. This is a nation of pragmatists. Let's be entrepreneurs. The debate needs fresh thinking. Jan Harshberger, Executive secretary, Alternative World Foundation, Goshen, Ind.:

Many of the peace groups have a great motivation, but no solutions. They like to talk about the problem, but they don't offer solutions. Anne Ehrlich, Senior research associate, Stanford University:

Nuclear winter is a subject we need to know about, even if it's not pleasant to learn about. Jayne Maracek, Prospects for Peacemaking, Minneapolis: What kind of a world do we want to build? What kind of relationship do we want with the Russians? How do you define national security? Those are the kinds of questions everybody has an opinion on. Geri Joseph, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota:

I can't believe the Russians are any more eager to have their children incinerated than we are. Somewhere there must be a common ground. Catherine Kelleher, Professor of national-security studies, University of Maryland:

Nothing much is going to change unless there are some fundamental changes in the process by which the defense budget in this country is put together, debated, and decided. And nothing is going to change until we recognize that there is no free lunch -- that the choices we have to make are very difficult ones, with risks and problems. The questions to be asked involve choices not only about our own families but about the future as we wish to live it, or as we think we may be able to live it. In terms of the Strategic Defense Initiative, whatever you think about its feasibility, whatever you think about the wisdom of pursuing this as an item of national policy, the question must be asked: In a finite universe, where there are finite resources and questions of very hard choices, what is it that we are not going to do? What is it that we are going to put in second or third or fifth or tenth place in order to put this in first or second? The easy assumption is, We can do it all, or we will find the money to do it because it must be done.

We have enshrouded the defense budget with a symbolism that comes very close to: Nothing is too good, nothing is too infinite for us to attempt in terms of this great overarching goal of national security. Mary Purcell, President, American Association of University Women:

If we keep demanding that women be in the dialogue more and more, perhaps the next time there's a Geneva conference, the dialogue between the US and the USSR might be equally composed of men and women. I'd like to think the dialogue might be very different.

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