‘Now Is the Time for Youth to Drive Global Action’, Secretary-General Tells Young People at China’s Nanjing University Summer Olympic Games

16 August 2014
SG/SM/16087

‘Now Is the Time for Youth to Drive Global Action’, Secretary-General Tells Young People at China’s Nanjing University Summer Olympic Games

16 August 2014
Secretary-General
SG/SM/16087
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

‘Now Is the Time for Youth to Drive Global Action’, Secretary-General Tells

Young People at China’s Nanjing University Summer Olympic Games

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the All-China Youth Federation Event at Nanjing University on the occasion of the Nanjing 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games, in Nanjing, China, today:

Thank you very much for your warm welcome.  你们好.  [Hello, how are you?]  非常高兴再次来到中国,有机会和年轻朋友们见面.  [I’m very happy to be back in China and meet the younger generations.]

Do any of you watch the show My Love from the Star?  家好,我是潘基文, 不是都敏俊, 我们长得很像.  [I am Ban Ki-moon, not Do Min-joon from the Star — but we do look a lot like each other.]

Ladies and gentlemen, promising youth of China, dear students of Nanjing University, first of all, I thank the All-China Youth Federation for bringing us together.

I feel very inspired by your energy and I thank Mr. Qin Yizhi [First Secretary of the All-China Youth Federation] for addressing me as "Dr. Ban".  As you know, I received an honorary degree from this university a few years ago, so I am Dr. Ban.

This is my second visit to the city of Nanjing, but it is my eighth visit to China as Secretary-General.  This is my eighth year [as Secretary-General] and I am the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, so this visit is very special for me.

I really appreciate your warm welcome.  It reminds me of the many outstanding young volunteers who worked with the United Nations, particularly through UN Volunteers, to make the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games such a great success.

I look forward to the opening of the second Summer Youth Olympic Games this evening.  The United Nations strongly believes in the power of sport.  Sport has a very unique, extraordinary power to bring people together and to drive social change.  And, I sincerely hope that these Nanjing Youth Olympic Games have a great legacy of enhancing peace and development and also bridging the gap between and among different ethnicities and religions and people and traditions.  These are what the United Nations Charter aims to promote and achieve.

In that regard, there is a very clear connection and partnership between the United Nations and the Olympic movement.  I had a good meeting with the President of the International Olympic Committee [Thomas Bach] and our partnership is growing day by day.  I admire the athletes.  At the same time, all of you can be gold medal winners in life if you dedicate yourselves to noble ideals.

Today, I will talk about China, the United Nations and our world.  Mostly, I want to hear from you.  As you know, I grew up in wartime Korea.  My family was very poor, but we had something better than gold.  And we were very poor and very hungry, but we also very hungry and thirsty for education, [so we could] learn.

One of the very important guidelines for me was the Confucian tradition.  My parents taught me to study hard, to work for other people, work for the public good.  When I was still a teenager, I was a very lucky, lucky boy who was invited to the United States for a Red Cross meeting.  At that time, I had an extraordinary honour of meeting President John F. Kennedy in 1962.  I don't know who among you were born at that time.

I was a high school boy at that time. It was quite an exciting, extraordinary honour.  At that time, I was thinking, asking myself, what should I do for my country?  I thought that, because Korea was so poor at that time, I needed to do something for my country's economy and political stability.  This dream changed my life.  I decided to dedicate myself to public service.

At that time, I reflected on a Confucian teaching which says: 修身齐家治国平天下.  It means:  "To put the world in order, you must first put your country in order; then to put the country in order, you must have a very harmonious family; then to put your family harmoniously in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”

I have been living with those guidelines and teachings.  As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I deal with the worst problems of the world — war, hunger, poverty and disease.  All of these things we must prevent.  Abuses of people’s legitimate human rights.  Environmental degradation and climate change.  These are things we must address all together.

It is easy to lose hope, but I feel always motivated and encouraged by the energy of youth.  Young people like yourselves.  People like Malala Yousefzai.  She is the very young girl who was almost killed by the Taliban because of her determined will to learn as a girl.  I look forward to welcoming her next Monday in the United Nations.

The reason I am meeting you today and Malala next week and other youth right now is because we are at a critical moment in history.  There are many difficult issues which you have to [deal with] and I have to [deal with], but I need your support and I need your participation and your engagement.  We have just 500 days left to meet the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Next Monday, 18 August — that will be exactly the 500th day.  From then, the clock will be ticking until the end of December next year.

China has made remarkable progress that contributed to our global MDG results.  Worldwide, since 1990, some 700 million fewer people lived in conditions of extreme poverty.  Six million fewer children die each year from preventable diseases.  More than 2.3 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources.

In all these achievements, China played a very important role.  For example, when the world was able to lift at least half of the extremely poor people out of poverty, it was [due to] China's help, that you have lifted most of your people out of poverty.

But still, millions of people live in degrading conditions and die from preventable diseases.  Now is the time for youth to drive global action.  That is why I have asked my Youth Envoy, who is sitting here, Ahmad Alhendawi.  He is just 30 years old.  When he was appointed, he was 28 or 29 years old.  He's the youngest senior [official] in the United Nations system.  Why?  For the first time, I appointed him because half of this [world's] population — 3.5 billion people — are under the age of 25.  That means the world is very young.  We have to do more for these young people.  That is why working for and working with young people is one of the United Nations' priorities.

[Mr. Alhendawi] is now mobilizing the world's young people.  China makes up the largest share of the largest generation of youth in history.  We need you to succeed.  One of China’s first democrats, the Qing Dynasty scholar, Liang Qichao said:  “If the youth are wise, society will be wise; if the youth are rich, society will be rich; if the youth are strong, society will be strong; if the youth are independent, society will be independent; if the youth are free, society will be free; if the youth progress, society will progress.”

少年强则国强,少年进步,则国进步.  This is what I learned and you should learn.  I have high hopes for the great youth of China.  我对中国的青年一代寄予厚望.  非常感谢.  [Thank you very much.]

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.