New York

16 October 2012

Remarks at the United Nations Foundation/UNA-USA Global Leadership Dinner

Good evening, everyone!

It is wonderful to be here among so many good friends of the United Nations. I am here with the Deputy Secretary-General and a number of UN officials. We are all grateful for your invaluable support.

Senator Wirth, I appreciate your warm welcome.

It is a pleasure to be here with my distinguished predecessor, Kofi Annan and to be introduced by him.

I look forward to hearing from Ambassador Rice … Monique Coleman … and tonight’s honourees.

Above all, I want applaud Ted Turner. He is an extraordinary man.

Mr. Turner, 15 years ago you did something that no individual had ever done before – and no one has done since. You gave the United Nations one billion dollars. It was an enormous sum of money – but it was much more than that. It was the difference between hope and despair … life and death … for millions of people around the world.

Your gift came at a difficult time for the UN – and it represented an inspiring example of how individuals and business executives could support our work.

Mr. Turner, I give you my word:

We will continue doing everything possible to live up to your great expectations for the United Nations.

Dear friends,

I am proud to join you in honouring outstanding individuals this evening.

Kofi Annan left a strong legacy as United Nations Secretary-General. Now, he continues serving the world through his Foundation and other endeavours, including the situation in Kenya. The first time a former and a serving Secretary-General sat together was in 2007 in Kenya. We met both major party leaders at that time. And he delivered peace and stability in Kenya.

I will always be grateful for his tireless work to bring peace and stability and human rights to many people in Syria as the Joint UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy.

He has made a great contribution.

We remain extremely concerned about the fighting in Syria … the appalling daily death toll … the bombardment of civilians … the terrifying destruction of people’s houses and historic sites … the unspeakable human rights abuses in detention centres.

And the threat is spreading to the wider region.

We are now working to establish a ceasefire, stop the flow of arms, and his successor Lakhdar Brahimi is working very hard to build on Kofi Annan’s important groundwork for peace.

In Syria … and around the world … peace requires understanding and tolerance.

Archbishop Tutu is a champion of values. I applaud his campaigns for human rights and global health. I especially appreciate his advocacy for the rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

We cannot stand silent as long as members of our human family are being harassed, arrested, imprisoned and even killed simply because of who they are or who they love. Their struggle is my struggle. I intend to keep speaking out with Archbishop Tutu and advocates around the world until we stamp out this violence and discrimination in law and in practice.

I offer my warmest congratulations to all those honoured here tonight.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Fifteen years ago, when Ted Turner announced his personal donation, he said:

“I wavered several times in the last few days. I almost changed my mind. When I found out this morning that the UN said they cannot accept a gift, I thought well God is trying to tell me not to give my money!”

Of course he was joking. His mind never wavered. He created the UN Foundation in his words to “make things better for people all over the world.” In so doing, he created a model of partnership that helps solve 21st century problems in a 21st century way. I pledge to build on this.

Mr. Turner, you have succeeded. This UN Foundation lasted longer than we expected. It accomplished more than we hoped. And it promises even greater accomplishments for many years to come.

We live in a time of turmoil and transition. A time that demands visionary leadership. I hope that others will follow Mr. Turner’s example and give what they can – funds or expertise, ideas or leadership – to our great, global campaign for progress.

Thank you.