New York

01 December 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at J.Michael Adams Lecture and Conversation [as prepared for delivery]

Thank you, Under-Secretary-General [Cristina] Gallach [of the Department of Public Information]. Your Excellency, Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Mrs. Susan Adams, Mr. Mark Harris, President Emeritus of ELS Education Services and Berlitz, Ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to be able to join you today, even for a short while. I would not miss the chance to see my dear friend Susan Adams.
[TO SUSAN ADAMS] Your husband was one of the greatest allies of the United Nations in the world of academia. I will always treasure the memories of the times we spent together.
I am also delighted that Ambassador Akbaruddin is with us. India has been among the strongest and most committed supporters of the United Nations Academic Impact.
Let me especially welcome the presence of one hundred visiting university students from India.
One of the best aspects of the UN Academic Impact is its student organization ASPIRE. Its members are global citizens who are standing tall as leaders of today.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
Since I launched this initiative just over six years ago, it has grown into a truly global alliance for intellectual social responsibility. I thank the more than 1,200 member institutions working on virtually every area of United Nations activity.
In a decade as Secretary-General, some of my most fruitful discussions were with students and scholars, researchers and writers, professors and practitioners.
While the United Nations is busy putting out fires, academics help us see the big picture.
Dr. Adams was a visionary in helping DPI shape the Academic Impact. I even say UNAI could stand for United Nations Adams Impact.
I remember one conversation I had with Michael. We were reflecting on how so many different interests and individuals there are in our world. We knew we needed to harmonize them to achieve the world we want. He called this the process of truly coming of age in an era of globalization.
Michael asked a powerful question: “Why can't we just do it together?” In those seven words he summed up the roadmap for our future – and my own personal philosophy.
As Secretary-General, I have tried to inspire this spirit of shared responsibility.
We live at a time when more people are on the move than ever before. There are dangerous forces of division at play. The United Nations is taking a strong stand for our shared humanity. We need all people to support this cause.
This is why I launched a campaign to promote tolerance, respect and dignity for refugees and migrants called “Together.” Our goal is to turn fear into hope.
I am glad that Mark Harris chose this theme for his lecture.
As you know, he runs a global essay contest on multilingualism. The student winners travel here, to the United Nations.
I can relate to them.
When I was 18, the American Red Cross sponsored me on a visit to the United States. I was part of a group of 140 young men and women from 44 different countries. They taught me the meaning of global citizenship years before anyone ever used that term. And we remain friends to this day.
The highlight of that trip was our visit to the White House, where we met President John F. Kennedy.
He told us, “There are no national boundaries. There is only a question of whether you can extend a helping hand.”
Let us embrace this spirit of compassion to realize peace, justice, human rights and human dignity for all.
Thank you.