United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in San Francisco, the birthplace of the United Nations, on Thursday, 26 July.
After a brief reception by Ambassador Bill Luers of the United Nations Association of the United States at the airport, the Secretary-General drove to the town of Novato where he was reunited with 90-year-old Libba Patterson, the woman who, in 1962, hosted the young Ban Ki-moon on his first trip overseas, as a visiting student.
Speaking to reporters at the end of his reunion with the Patterson family, the Secretary-General said he was delighted to see his friends again. “I’m very touched to be able to visit this place, my second home,” he told journalists following the meeting. “I stayed eight days in this home with love and affection.” He later said: “I really did leave my heart in San Francisco.”
From Novato, the Secretary-General and his delegation drove back to San Francisco and began the formal part of his visit with a tour of the Ferry Building, a marketplace specializing in local, organic produce. Along the way, he spontaneously interacted with San Franciscans while sampling goods from local farms. Mayor Gavin Newsom, who led the tour, later hosted the Secretary-General at a luncheon at the Ferry Building.
The Secretary-General then toured the War Memorial’s Opera House and Herbst Theater, where the United Nations Charter was negotiated and signed in 1945. There, he received the keys of the city from Mayor Newson. Addressing a gathering of local officials, he said: “ San Francisco is the birthplace of the United Nations, which was created to save this world from the scourge of war. I’m here to discuss the future of our planet Earth, and this can become the birthplace of a new movement to save it for future generations.” (See Press Release SG/SM/11103.)
In the evening, the Secretary-General was the guest speaker at a town hall meeting and reception organized by the World Affairs Council. “Global problems demand global solutions. However powerful, however resourceful a country may be, it cannot address these issues alone,” he told the approximately 1,300 participants. (See Press Release SG/SM/11104.)
He added that, today, there is a new appreciation for multilateralism and diplomacy in coping with crises, adding: “Issues like climate change -- the United Nations natural turf -- have risen to the top of the global agenda.”
The Secretary-General later took questions on such subjects as the Middle East, including Iraq, Darfur, climate change, the status of women and United Nations reform.
The visit continued on Friday with a joint programme with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. Together, they toured a local company that is developing new energy-saving technologies to combat climate change.
The Secretary-General capped the official visit to California with a joint press conference with Governor Schwarzenegger in San Jose. At that event, the Secretary-General invited the Governor to address the high-level informal dialogue on climate change, which is planned for 24 September. The Governor agreed to attend.