Christopher tm Herdt (cherdt) wrote,
Christopher tm Herdt

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

On Monday night I went to see United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speak on Penn's campus. The venue was full, so the organizers directed the overflow (myself included) to adjacent rooms where the speech could be seen via live video. He was speaking to the topic of empowering women, but the speech was not particularly interesting and focused for the most part on various familiar facts and statistics, some of which you can find linked from Gender Equality.

He did have a couple anecdotes I liked. One was about an all-female UN policing force from India sent to Liberia to protect people there. Once the Liberian women saw who their protectors were, they too wanted to join. I think it shows how powerful role models can be.

The other was less relevant, but still entertaining: apparently as a schoolboy, he wrote a letter to Dag Hammarskjöld (then the UN Secretary General) in support of Hungary's 1956 revolution.

There were several moments of unintentional comedy:
  • During Amy Gutmann's introduction, she cited among Ban Ki-moon's accomplishments his ability (in a different role in the UN) to grow consensus to issue a resolution condemning the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The humor here is at the expense of the United Nations, not Ban Ki-moon. How difficult should it be to condemn an act of terrorism?
  • Ban Ki-moon said that he has increased the number of women in high-level roles in the UN by 40% during his tenure, but said there needed to be more women throughout the organization. He said that the UN was like a body, and that they had worked on the head but now needed to work on...he paused, and moved his hands up and down the sides of his chest...the waist. Because every woman likes to have a nice waist.
  • He talked about how empowering women would help the UN achieve all of its Millennium Goals. This is undoubtedly true, but again the humor is at the expense of the United Nations. Millennium Goals? They say they have a target date of 2015 for their goals, but doesn't it just sound like they hope to accomplish something in the next 1000 years?

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