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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Frances Farley, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Frances Farley was a state senator in Utah in the 1970s, the first woman elected to the position. In this interview, she discusses her horrified reaction to the planned basing of MX missiles across the state, and the means by which she helped fight and ultimately overturn the idea. Drawing on information about the harmful environmental and financial impact of the plan, she and her fellow opponents set about educating the public and bringing to bear the influence of key individuals and institutions, notably the Mormon Church. She attributes some of their success to the missteps and condescension of military and Carter administration spokesmen. The main lessons she drew from the experience are that one cannot automatically trust the military or government to do what’s best, and that citizens need to be involved and to have good information in order to take on and win against such formidable adversaries.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Reagan's Shield
Program Number



Interview with Frances Farley, 1987

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

President Reagan introduces the controversial Strategic Defense Initiative, an idea he believes will make nuclear weapons”Impotent and Obsolete.”

In 1983 President Reagan envisioned a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) that could intercept and destroy Soviet strategic ballistic missiles before they reached the United States. Skeptics dubbed the idea “Star Wars.” It was hard for Reagan to accept the idea of deterrence based on mutual destruction. He believed SDI offered a solution. His science advisor George Keyworth says SDI was “thoroughly created and invented in Ronald Reagan’s own mind and experience.” According to defense scientist Ashton Carter, “The concept is fine. What is not fine is implying to the public that the solution to the nuclear puzzle is at hand.” SDI became the focus of a national debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy, and a stumbling block in strategic arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. The final months of the Reagan Administration brought a drastic reduction in the scope and size of SDI efforts.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Thiokol Chemical Corporation
Mormon Church
Laxalt, Paul
United States. Army. Corps of Engineers
Reagan, Ronald
Hecker, Guy L.
Chayes, Antonia Handler, 1929-
Garland, Cecil
Hansen, James V.
Garwin, Richard L.
Midgetman Missile
Scoville, Herbert
La Rocque, Gene R. (Gene Robert), 1918-
United States. Air Force
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
MX (Weapons system)
Nellis Air Force Base (Nev.)
Salt Lake City, UT
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Farley, Frances (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Frances Farley, 1987,” 11/16/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 8, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Frances Farley, 1987.” 11/16/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 8, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Frances Farley, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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