Be Bold and Think Big- UN Secretary General tells Youth

26 October Print

Be Bold and Think Big- UN Secretary General tells Youth

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the UN4U event at New Explorations in Science, Mathematics and Technology School, 24 October, in New York:


Good morning, everyone.  Thank you, Karen [Tong, Secretary of the Student Government].  Thank you, everyone, for welcoming me to NEST.  What a pleasure to see all the tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders here.  Let me also say hello to the ninth graders watching in your classrooms.  I wish I could see you in person.  Thank you for joining us.  I heard the last time you were all here was for Movie Night.  I hope I am not quite as scary as “Night of the Living Dead”.  I understand you also just saw some films about the United Nations work.  I was in a few scenes giving speeches.  But I want you to know:  long ago, I could have been one of the poor people receiving the United Nations’ help.


You see, I grew up in Korea, just after a long war.  All the cities were destroyed.  Everyone was poor.  One of my earliest memories is walking up a muddy road into the mountains.  It was raining.  Behind me, my village was burning.  When there was school, it was under a tree.  Then the United Nations came.  They fed me, my family, my community.  The United Nations helped rebuild my country.


That’s why today is so special.  This is United Nations Day.  Like that banner says, “The UN is 4U”.  Today, we also begin a countdown.  In one week, the human family will welcome our 7 billionth baby.  We are seven days to 7 billion.  I love the beautiful signs you all made.  “I am One of Seven Billion”.  That is your badge of solidarity with all people on this planet Earth.


Because this is not a story about numbers; this is a story about people.  Seven billion people who need enough food, enough energy, good opportunities in life for jobs and education, rights and freedoms, the freedom to speak, the freedom to raise their own children in peace and security — everything you want for yourself — 7 billion times over.


I want you to think about so many around the world who don’t have that.  The 1 billion people who go to bed hungry, those who die of hunger, of disease — often because they lack something as basic and simple as clean water.  Many of them do not even live to be 5 years old.  At the United Nations, these are the people we are working for every day.  In Sudan, in Somalia, in Haiti, wherever there is suffering.


Despite all of our challenges, I have hope, because there is one resource that can overcome all of these problems.  I am not talking about a super variety of rice to feed the planet, or a magic cure to all diseases, or a great business idea to end global poverty.


I am talking about the living resource that fills this room:  you.  You who know that children do not need to die from hunger, that mothers do not need to die from childbirth, that families do not need to suffer, because we know how to help them.


The UN is 4 U — and you can be 4 the UN.  Let us make this, not just a world of 7 billion.  Let us make this a world of 7 billion strong.  Being here in a high school, I remember what one of my favourite teachers said to me.  He told me, “Always keep your head above the clouds but keep your feet firmly on the ground.”  That means to be bold.  Think big.  Embrace a vision larger than yourself.  That is how to live a life of greater meaning and larger purpose.


Here at NEST, you have a wonderful opportunity, a wonderful school, wonderful teachers, a wonderful sense of community.  But my favourite thing about NEST is your basketball team cheer:  “Eagles, SOAR!”  I want all of you to soar into a great future.  I want all of you to lift your wings and fly high into the deep blue sky; a UN blue sky.  This is your world.  Your United Nations.  I came here to hear from you.  Please, ask me your questions.  I will do my best to answer.



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