New York

18 May 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at Columbia University Commencement [as prepared for delivery]

Thank you for this great honour.  I know that, through me, you are recognizing the efforts of tens of thousands of men and women who work across the world for peace, development and human rights.

The United Nations treasures its partnership with Columbia University.  We are not just neighbours in New York; we are allies across the world.

I want to share two simple and short messages.

First, despite the dangers we face, remember that you are graduating into an era of wondrous opportunity.

We are appalled by war crimes in Syria and elsewhere.

We are outraged by racism and hatred, especially when voiced by politicians and would-be leaders who have a duty to bring people together, not drive them apart.

Technology has made us more connected.  Our challenge is to be more united.

My second message is this: Now that you’re done with finals, help us meet the climate test.

Last month marked the seventh month in a row of the hottest global temperatures on record. 

We have the historic Paris Agreement.  You can help bring it to life.

Don’t vote for politicians who deny the problem.

Don’t buy products that aren’t sustainable.

And for heaven’s sake, turn off the lights!

Follow the advice of one of my teachers: Keep your head above the clouds, and your feet firmly on the ground.  And move up, step by step. 

That means: Dream big – but be practical.

With passion and compassion, you can build a world in which all people enjoy dignity and peace.

I wish you all great happiness and success.