Near the end of each school year comes Alumni Reunion weekend, and with it, a day of honoring several exceptional alumni prior to welcoming our newest crop of alumni at Commencement, which closes out the weekend. This year’s two Distinguished Alumni Award recipients will be honored on June 4 as part of Alumni Reunion 2016 festivities. Those alumni celebrating their 50th reunion will have one more reason to make their way back to the D-E campus for this year’s special events: Jonathan Granoff ESB ’66 is also going to be the Commencement 2016 keynote speaker.
Dedicated Activist: Jonathan Granoff ESB ’66
As president of the Global Security Institute (GSI), an organization founded by former California senator Alan Cranston and led by a board of advisors that has included Jane Goodall and Mikhail Gorbachev, Jonathan Granoff ESB ’66 has the daunting job of working to “achieve incremental steps that enhance security and lead to the global elimination of nuclear weapons.” He spends much of his time speaking at international forums and creating and facilitating opportunities for constructive dialogue about nonproliferation among like-minded and dissenting entities. His work as a sort of international peace agent has earned him many accolades, including a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2014.
An attorney by trade, Granoff manages nuclear disarmament and related peace-keeping initiatives as he leads the GSI’s efforts to engage members of Congress, heads of state, diplomats, and other officials through the letter of the law. Among other endeavors, the GSI manages Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, a network of legislators around the world.
Granoff has lectured nationally and worldwide on the legal, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of human development and security, with a specific focus on advancing the rule of law to address the threats posed by nuclear weapons. He is known for bringing clarity to the seemingly complicated issue of nonproliferation, pointing out that the factors of simple human error and potential for accidental detonation in conjunction with excessive amounts of stockpiled arms are logically reasons enough for disarmament. As he explained on Dr. Deepak Chopra’s online interview program One World: “Nuclear weapons are unworthy of civilization”. We must downgrade their political value… taking steps to end nuclear testing forever, and ratifying the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. We must [also] end the production of nuclear weapons. There are far more than enough arms to blow up the world thousands of times. In the debates that matter, military experts say we need these weapons for unforeseeable threats. Those unforeseeable threats are difficult to argue against. [So] we must re-define security appropriate to the empirical and verifiable threats that we all face. There are certainly no military solutions to [longstanding, ancient] disputes between nations. We have to identify our common interests.”
Last fall, Granoff was an honored speaker during the first International Day of Yoga, held at the United Nations (UN), where he practiced a few asanas (postures) with the secretary-general and many top diplomats from some of the Permanent Five member nations of the UN Security Council, among other countries and other governments.
Granoff points out that there is spiritual dimension to the issue of nuclear weapons. “Presently governments have committed in excess of $1 trillion to modernize nuclear arsenals and their delivery systems,” he says. “This commitment to organizing so much energy in the pursuit of security by threatening such destruction is an affront to the spiritual values of every faith tradition. Yoga is not just about exercise but involves cultivating a deep harmony with nature, other lives, and the mystery that gives us life. The texts of this ancient tradition emphasize that it is through the cultivation of compassion that the mind is brought into harmony.”
Simply stated: “How can people without peace in their own hearts and minds lead in bringing peace into the world?”
In his work, Granoff has collaborated with such luminaries as former Secretary of Defense William Perry, the Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter, and Bono. Upon receiving the Arthur E. Armitage Distinguished Alumni Award from Rutgers School of Law–Camden in 2009, Granoff was praised by his peers, including Tadatoshi Akiba, mayor of Hiroshima, who stated, “[Granoff] is a sophisticated lobbyist for a nuclear-weapon–free world… Many people know Jonathan as a hard-headed realist: his encyclopedic knowledge of the nuclear issue and his numerous political and organizational accomplishments will certainly be cited in justifying the award he is receiving tonight. But fewer people know the philosophical depth Jonathan brings to his work…We are glad that he is being recognized and grateful that he is on this case.” Dr. Deepak Chopra called Granoff “a passionate change agent, a visionary and a global leader. He is the embodiment of love in action.”
A self-described “busy activist,” Granoff chaired the special session on Terrorism and Threats to Humanity at the Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome in 2004, where he has represented the International Peace Bureau, a Nobel Peace Laureate organization, for more than 15 years. Notably, he was invited to speak at a disarmament conference organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, prior to negotiations between Iran and the UN’s Security Council that led to the “Iran Deal.” Serving on various governing and advisory boards, Granoff has held such positions as senior advisor to the American Bar Association (ABA) Committee on Arms Control and National Security and co-chair of the ABA Blue Ribbon Task Force on Nuclear Non-proliferation. For these efforts and many others, Granoff was nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
When not lecturing, Granoff takes on ambitious writing projects, contributing to print and online publications including The Huffington Post, TheWeek.com, and ABA’s The International Lawyer. He has published articles in more than 50 publications and books, including The Sovereignty Revolution, Toward a Nuclear Weapons Free World, Imagining Tomorrow, Perspectives on 911, Toward a World In Balance, and Hold Hope, Wage Peace. He has been a featured guest and expert commentator on hundreds of radio and television programs.
Granoff is the son of singer Kitty Kallen, who recorded the 1950s chart-topper “Little Things Mean a Lot,” and Bernard “Budd” Granoff, agent/promoter to stars such as Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis. He earned his B.A. cum laude from Vassar College and his J.D. from Rutgers School of Law–Camden, but considers his formative experiences at Englewood School for Boys to be critical to his development. “More important than the academic rigor was the enthusiasm toward the subject matter that was shared by Professors Hitchins, Butler, Beaumont, Gordon, Wright, and Novak at Dwight,” he says. “That enthusiasm for learning as an ongoing life endeavor has been an immeasurable, enormous blessing. I have looked at some of my notebooks from my high school classes, and have been amazed at the sophistication of the lectures to which I was privileged at such a young age.”
The benefits of ESB went beyond the academic work, however. “I also remain grateful toward the intensity of discipline, focus and camaraderie of the sports program,” he says. “My love of the sports that I played then remains with me now and although I no longer have the ups that I had, I can still drill 18-foot jump shots at will.”
Ultimately, Granoff considers the ESB motto, Veritas fortissima, to be “the guiding compass in my personal life and public service.” He says, “When we look at the sorry state of the political debates in which the fate of the future is placed in the hands of very few people, there is all too little reference to the pursuit of truth. If there was one value impressed upon me in my formative years, it was contained in [this] school motto.”
Granoff’s family includes wife Carol “Moon” Granoff and their three sons, Ilmi, Dean, and Pir. To learn more about Jonathan and the Global Security Institute, visit www.gsinstitute.org.