New York

17 February 2011

Secretary-General's Memorial Service for Ambassador Richard Holbrooke

Ms. Kati Marton, David, Anthony, Christopher and Elizabeth, To all the members of your family, To all whose lives were touched by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke,

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I am proud that we can gather in this great hall, today, to celebrate a man who believed in peace and fought so hard for it.

From this august podium, generations of leaders have come together to discuss and to settle the great issues and crises of our world.

Richard Holbrooke was among them - a great American, and a great internationalist.

It is fitting that we gather today in this great Hall. Those who know him best will tell you: he saw his time at the United Nations as the finest in his long and distinguished career.

He believed profoundly in this extraordinary Organization.

He understood its potential. But as a realist, he knew its limits -“flawed but indispensable,” he called it.

And he demanded as much of it as he gave of himself.

In other words, everything.

When it comes to persistence - to sheer strength of will - no one could beat him.

Secretary Clinton called him “incorrigible.”

In fact, he was a force of nature - and he used that force to shape our world for the better.

He pushed the Security Council to recognize HIV/AIDS as a matter of global security - then opened another new chapter by bringing business into the fight against the disease.

He led a series of Security Council missions to shine a spotlight on Africa - Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and beyond.

He fought, strenuously, for more effective action in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, saving countless lives.

He never hesitated to call on the UN to live up to its promise, in Sierra Leone, Timor Leste, Kosovo. He insisted that Israel not be treated as a case apart.

Perhaps his greatest coup was negotiating the historic deal on U.S. dues to the United Nations.


He lured the UN's toughest critic, Senator Jesse Helms, to a special session of the Security Council - and there, he said, “I flattered him egregiously.”

Of course, he did much more than that. One by one, he made his case with more than 100 Members of Congress and a good number of the world's foreign ministers.

By the time he was done, he had a package deal that included a series of important reforms of the United Nations - and the United States made good on nearly $1 billion in back dues.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

I treasured Richard Holbrooke's friendship. I valued his counsel.

He understood the burdens of leadership and made them lighter.

Not long ago, when floods were devastating Pakistan, I called him quite early in the day - not realizing it was 1 a.m., local time. I told him that we needed help getting in relief supplies.

Immediately, he was on the phone, calling everyone he knew inside and outside the country.

Four hours later - 5 a.m local time - he called back to say that everything was arranged.

“Ambassador, do you never sleep?” I asked. The answer, obviously, was no: not when there was work to be done and lives to be saved.

That was Richard Holbrooke.

If he were with us today, he would scan the horizon: political challenges in Côte D'Ivoire and the Sudan, humanitarian emergencies in Haiti and Somalia, dramatic developments in the Middle East.

He would seize this moment to make the United Nations all that it can be, all that it must be. And so must we.

Kati, you should be proud of your husband.

David, Anthony, Christopher, Elizabeth - you, too, should be proud of your great father. Very proud.

Thank you for sharing him with us.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

In his memory, let us all pledge to carry on his mission. Let us embrace his passion - and his immense compassion for those who are forgotten and need a champion.

There could be no better tribute to a great man, an absolute diplomat, and an unrelenting force for good and peace.

Thank you very much.