Thank you very much for the chance to be part of this dynamic Rotary International Convention.
I am inspired to be with so many great supporters of the United Nations.
I only wish I had the chance to visit the House of Friendship!
What a wonderful tradition – to create a place for informal dialogue among friends.
Today I want to speak to you about the invaluable partnership between Rotary International and the United Nations.
Our common activities are saving lives. And they are based on a spirit of trust.
My main message is simple. Just four words: thank you very much.
Rotarians do remarkable work around the world. You help the United Nations reach our goals. And you help the world understand the United Nations.
Our two organizations have a long, productive history.
Rotarians even helped with the founding of the United Nations.
They were at the San Francisco Conference that gave birth to our Organization.
Seventy-one years ago this month, former Rotary International President Allan Albert participated in the discussions on forming the United Nations.
He was a passionate defender of human understanding who called for people to “be real factors in a real peace” following the Second World War.
Together, we are working to realize this vision.
I have attended many events with Rotarians. We have forged warm personal ties.
I will never forget taking part in the centennial in Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
We arrived to see the flags of more than 150 countries – and the friendly Rotarians in their yellow vests.
There was a meaningful sense of purpose in the air.
I feel the same sense of excitement today.
It comes from more than a big gathering. It comes from an important mission.
Rotarians are using their time, funds and energy to help our world.
I am especially grateful for your monumental contributions to eradicating polio.
The United Nations is proud to be your partner in ending this debilitating disease.
When Rotary International launched its campaign in 1985, more than 350,000 children were paralyzed by polio every year.
Individual Rotarians have generously contributed an astounding $1.2 billion to the campaign.
They have engaged donor governments to secure an additional $6 billion in funds.
And Rotarians are on the frontlines of this fight.
They travel to communities. They speak to parents. They spread hope. And they contribute to a safer world for everyone.
I congratulate Rotary International for helping reduce polio by 99 percent.
From hundreds of thousands of cases each year, now there are fewer than two dozen.
Africa is polio free.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are still affected – but we are working hard to help them stamp out polio.
Rotary’s PolioPlus programme has helped to avert massive suffering.
Some 16 million people who would have been paralyzed by polio can walk.
Around a million and a half children are alive today thanks to PolioPlus.
The results in human terms are immeasurable. And in financial terms, the results are enormous. Over the next 20 years, polio eradication will save more than $50 billion.
We are all anxiously waiting for “case zero”.
Until that day comes, we have to redouble our efforts.
I have personally vaccinated children in clinics in Angola and Indonesia, in India and Nigeria and beyond. I have advocated with leaders. And I have stood side by side with friends from Rotary International at anti-polio events around the world.
Our partnership is stronger than polio – but we must keep up the fight.
Please continue to raise your voices, hold your governments accountable and campaign hard until we end this disease.
The campaign is difficult – and it can be dangerous. Many frontline workers risk their lives to vaccinate children. Others have been killed in the effort.
Let us pay tribute to these anti-polio champions by leaving a polio-free world to future generations.
For many years, Rotary International was represented at the United Nations by a man named Sylvan Barnet.
He was a great believer in our Organization.
He once said, “the UN is the only place in the world where it all comes together.”
Today, global threats do not stop at national borders. That makes the convening power of the United Nations more important than ever before.
I count on Rotary International to continue supporting the United Nations.
Together, we can rise to the challenges of our day – and create a better future for all.