Remarks at the Unveiling of NTI Co-Chairman Ted Turner's Portrait

Thank you very much, Judy.  I am delighted to be here tonight on behalf of the Nuclear Threat Initiative to honor our co-chairman and co-founder Ted Turner.

The great Georgia educator Benjamin Mays once said:  Low aim, not failure, is a sin.  I think that we can all agree that Ted Turner has never committed the sin of aiming low.   

Back when Ted was “fully employed”, he won the America’s Cup and the World Series, started a communications revolution, launched the Goodwill Games and turned the world of philanthropy on its head with his groundbreaking charitable giving.  Since Ted “retired”, he has launched efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, strengthen the United Nations and save the planet.  What a career!  What a retirement!  What a leader!

All of these accomplishments are astounding, but what’s most unique is the repeated Turner success strategy:  Ted identifies mission impossible, aims high and hits the bulls-eye.  Ted never entertains – even for a moment –  the thought that any mission is impossible or any target unreachable.  He has the ability to see what others can’t, take risks others won’t, set goals others find breathtaking and invest his time, his passion, his intellect and his resources to turn dreams into reality.  

When Ted called me in early 2000 to propose an effort to reduce nuclear dangers, he had just seen a report on “60 Minutes II” and he told me: “Sam, I thought that the nuclear threat ended when the Cold War ended.  We’ve got to get rid of nuclear weapons.” 

Largely because of Ted’s high aim, over the last 14 years NTI has: 

  • Helped focus governments worldwide on securing nuclear materials and preventing catastrophic terrorism. 
  • Created the World Institute for Nuclear Security, which has brought together 800 members from more than 60 countries to share best practices for nuclear security in an effort to prevent nuclear terrorism.
  • Worked with the International Atomic Energy Agency to approve, and Warren Buffett to fund, an “international nuclear fuel bank” to prevent the dangerous spread of uranium enrichment technology.
  • Helped develop and galvanize a global movement in support of a vision of a world without nuclear weapons as well as the hard, difficult, but essential steps for getting there.
  • Encouraged and helped public health officials in troubled regions around the world to create disease surveillance networks that promote early warning and coordinated responses to infectious disease and bioterrorism threats, and also created an international organization to connect these regional networks. 

Ted, you have inspired us all – indeed all of mankind – to aim high.  Thank you for your bold vision,  your candor,  your energy,  your passion, your sense of humor, your friendship and your love of the Earth and all of humanity.  I am proud to be your partner.


December 4, 2014

NTI Co-Chairman and CEO Sam Nunn honored NTI Co-Chairman Ted Turner at the unveiling of Ted's portrait at the National Portrait Gallery.

Sam Nunn
Sam Nunn

Co-Chair, NTI