New York

24 June 2013

Secretary-General's Remarks at Commencement Address at Democracy Prep High School [As delivered]

Good afternoon, everyone!

I have a message for all of you.

To the Honourable Congressman Charles Rangel.

To Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott.

To the COO of Democracy Prep, Katy Duffy, who will soon be your CEO.

To Seth Andrew, your wonderful founder.

To Lisa Friscia, your amazing Campus Director.

To all of your incredible teachers.

To all the scholars here.

To the parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends.

And most of all – to the proud graduates:


This is your moment. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Let us recognize all the family members, friends and supporters here today. This is their moment too.

Congratulations on the first graduation of this remarkable school!

I was really moved by that video about how you are going to change the world.

I count on you, class of twenty-seventeen.

You made it through lots of hard work. You even survived Mr. Clark’s papers.

He really challenged you. All your teachers challenged you.

You rose to every challenge. You showed that you appreciate tough demands. And you are ready to reach for the stars.

You worked very hard in school – and in life.

Some students study civics. You practice civics.

You registered voters before you were even old enough to vote. You lobbied representatives. You raised your voices. And you were heard.

Today we celebrate here at the Apollo, in historic Harlem.

In New York City – home to the United Nations, and home to the world.
Now I have a confession to make ... I always dreamed of appearing live at the Apollo.

The problem is … I really can’t sing. But I want to give you some music.

So here is a song – but it also has a message. Listen.

Thank you, Beyoncé!

I met her the day she taped that concert. She asked me about the work of the United Nations.

The UN feeds about a hundred million hungry people around the world each day.

We work to save the lives of millions of children with vaccines and basic health care.

We provide shelter to refugees – and schools for refugee children who have been forced to flee fighting in Syria and other troubled parts of the world.

Our peacekeepers destroy weapons and train ex-soldiers for new jobs that contribute to society.

When there is an earthquake, a tsunami or a flood, the United Nations rushes in with food, medicine and hope.

We negotiate and mediate to prevent wars and establish peace.

Our United Nations needs all kinds of people. Politicians, diplomats, lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, police and more.

I am here to say: we need you, class of twenty-seventeen!

We need you to think beyond the borders of the United States. We need you be global citizens.

Climate change, poverty and violence affect all countries. We have to respond as one human family.

Many of you have travelled the world. Always keep this global perspective.

You grew so much during your years at Democracy Prep. You developed into fine scholars.

You have earned your “dream dollars”. Now I want you to keep dreaming.

Every single one of you is going to college. That is why we call you class of twenty-seventeen. And we are all here to say: class of twenty-seventeen, congratulations!

You struggled hard for this. But remember: struggle makes a person strong.

No one proved this more than Nelson Mandela – the great leader of South Africa who spent 27 years of his life in prison for justice and equality. We wish him well.

Take the strength inside you and challenge every problem you face. Then look for a harder problem – one that affects more people. Reach inside yourself and fulfil the promise of your school to change the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Distinguished officials, administrators and teachers,
Proud families,
Dear students,
And the wonderful class of twenty-seventeen!

Democracy Prep is very close to my heart because you prove my belief that education transforms our world.

I grew up in wartime. My elementary school didn’t even have a building – we sat under a tree. But we studied hard.

Later, Korea had an initiative called the “Sae-ma-eul campaign” to re-build yourself and your community through education.

I saw how well it worked in Korea. Now I am taking what I learned to the world.

I launched a Global Education First initiative. There are 57 million children who are out of school in our world. My goal is to get all of them into school by the year 2015.

We want to raise more leaders like you – people who will shape a new future

Never forget the values you learned at this outstanding school.

Can I hear a big, warm round of applause for the first-ever graduating class of Democracy Prep High School – the class of twenty-seventeen!

You are my inspiration.

Keep changing our world.

Thank you so much, and congratulations class of twenty-seventeen!

Thank you.