17 October 2008
Secretary-General
SG/SM/11867

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

SECRETARY-GENERAL PAYS TRIBUTE TO LEGACY OF UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN


TOM LANTOS AT GLOBAL COMPASSION BALL

 


Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Global Compassion Ball in New York, 16 October:


It is wonderful to be here tonight.  I actually had another commitment this evening, but when I learned the Lantos Foundation was receiving the Global Humanitarian Award, I knew I had to be here in person.


Mrs. Lantos, let me offer my warmest congratulations to you.  You once told me that the Hungarian and Korean languages have some structures in common.  You always pointed to these similarities by kindly saying that my wife and I are your “cousins”.


I am honoured to be your cousin.  Our kinship goes far beyond language.  We share so many values.  And we share our profound feelings for Tom Lantos.


It might seem unusual that a Korean official and an American Congressman would have developed such genuine affection for one another.  But it is not that difficult to understand when you look at how we grew up -- what shaped us and what led us to where we are today.


During the Korean war, I saw the horrors of war.  At the same time, as a young man, I witnessed how the international community came together to help my country in its hour of need.  I saw what a difference the United Nations can make.


Tom Lantos endured more than I could even imagine, surviving one of the worst atrocities of the Second World War -- the Holocaust.  Far from being defeated by this searing experience, he resolved all the more strongly to make the world a better place.  Tom and Annette Lantos have been lifelong partners throughout this incredible journey.


Tom Lantos also believed in the value of the United Nations, and he worked tirelessly to build relations between the United Nations and the United States.


Congressman Lantos was all too aware of the worst in man, but he inspired us to bring out the best.


I was deeply saddened when I learned of his untimely passing.  But I was comforted by the conviction that his powerful voice -- a voice of wisdom and compassion -- would continue to resonate beyond his lifetime.  The fact that the Lantos Foundation is being honoured tonight is proof that his legacy is still very much alive, challenging all of us to carry forward the cause of tolerance, justice and peace that he passionately served throughout his life, with his wife by his side.


I offer my most sincere congratulations to the Lantos Foundation, and especially to Annette Lantos.


And I pledge to do my part to advance the ideals that Tom Lantos lived for, always inspired by my memories of his professional dedication and his personal friendship.


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For information media • not an official record