New York

19 September 2017

Secretary-General's toast at lunch for Heads of State and Government

Allow me to use a formula I have learned in eastern Africa: Dear friends, all protocol observed.

I want, first of all, to express my deep gratitude to our host country and the City of New York. 

Mr. President, you are a New Yorker, so you know exactly how exciting it is for me to be able to work in New York with all my colleagues here in the United Nations. It is a privilege, and we owe it to the wonderful people of this city and the wonderful people of your country - the fantastic hospitality that we enjoy. Thank you very much.

In the years of my radical youth, I was taught at the time that history is deterministic, that the flow of history doesn’t depend on the actions of individuals – even leaders - but is determined by structural, economic, social and political factors, that totally escape the control of each individual actor. Now, those years have passed, and I have learned that that was completely wrong. History strongly depends on the individual actions of each one of us. I don’t think it is possible to imagine a room in the world where so many leaders are gathered, where so much power is concentrated, and I do believe that each one of us has a chance to influence the history of the times to come, and that chance needs to be seized.

I do believe that the history of the near future that will be taught and explained in history books will depend a lot on the individual actions of each one of us.  So, my toast is very simple: I pray to God to inspire us to make sure that all of you do the right thing, for acting together, to be able to have the better world that the people we serve need. To all of you, to your leadership, to make sure that we are able to do it.