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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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New York, 20 February 2013 - Secretary-General's remarks at launch of "Building a Better Future for All: Selected Speeches of United Nations Secretary-General" [as prepared for delivery]

Thank you for joining me today.

I am pleased to know that your universities and institutions are supporters of the United Nations, and are working with the Academic Impact initiative to advance shared values and objectives.

I will not speak very long because, with the book that is in your hands, you are all now drowning in speeches!  Let me also assure you: there will not be a test on the contents!

We have invited you here today because the United Nations is counting on each and every one of you to be a global citizen, to do your part to build a better world, and to take up the mantle of global leadership.  I can hear you thinking -- wait a minute, I thought the book was free!

I know you are already studying and preparing yourselves for life in an increasingly interdependent world.  My hope is that the book we are putting in your hands today will give you a crash course in the issues we face and what the United Nations is doing about them.

A number of books have been published about me since I took office more than six years ago.  But this one is unique: it is the only one that fully reflects my thinking on leading global challenges and that conveys my own personal perspective based on my life experiences – from growing up in war-town Korea to my years as Secretary-General.  In short, it is straight from me.

I have chosen 100 speeches from the several thousand that I have delivered as Secretary-General.  There are many other speeches I would have wanted to include; this is just one snapshot of some of the leading speeches at this point in my tenure. 

You will see that they touch on diverse subjects, from climate change and maternal health to tolerance and nuclear disarmament.

The speeches were given in many different places, from South Sudan to the South Pole. 

The audiences ranged from Heads of State to Hollywood stars, from parliamentarians to the general public.

Some of the remarks are long, others are short; some were delivered in the midst of crisis, others looked to the far horizon and the longer-term.

Whatever the situation, my aim in any speech is to illuminate an issue -- explain the principles at stake -- offer some solutions -- challenge the audience -- and enlist the global public in our work.

I also want people to know who I am -- the person behind the position -- and give them a sense of why I do what I do and say what I say.

The position of Secretary-General comes with a mix of advantages and limitations.

I am equipped with the stirring aspirations enshrined in the UN Charter -- but I have little ability to enact legislation.

I am emboldened by the values found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- but I have little in the way of enforcement power.

Every Secretary-General quickly recognizes that one of his main assets is the unique platform atop the Organization -- the so-called bully pulpit.  I have it, and I try to use it.

The act of giving a speech has a useful way of forcing the mind.  You better know what you think and feel about a subject if you are going to get up in front of an audience and open your mouth!

That means crafting a speech becomes a policy dialogue... A research project... a means of separating the wheat from the chaff.  It compels you to make recommendations, not just observations.

At times the drafting process can get very heated.  I have to decide whether I am going too far, or far enough.  I have to calibrate when to single out this or that Government for criticism, or whether to save such talk for behind closed doors, or later.  Sometimes the jokes can be the most difficult thing to bring off well; at times, humour is no laughing matter.

You will be the judge of the finished products.  What I hope comes through is my passion for the United Nations, and my compassion for people in need across the world who turn to us for help. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You and your peers make up the largest generation of young people the world has ever known.   I am very pleased to note that my newest envoy – the UN’s first-ever Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan – is in the audience today.  I look forward to the dynamism he will bring to our efforts to empower the world’s young people.

Your generation is already making a mark on history, from politics to social media.

Offering you this book of speeches is my way of urging you on.

I have great faith in you. Thank you for the contributions I know you will make to building a better world for all.

Now I would be happy to hear your comments and answer your questions.  After that, I would of course be happy to sign copies of the book.

This is a United Nations publication.  It has just been released; it is available both in print and as an e-book.  And you are all among the very first to see it.

Thank you again for being here today.


Statements on 20 February 2013