Press Releases

    SG/SM/9513
          4 October 2004

    Secretary-General Salutes Honourees at UNA-USA Dinner for Deep Dedication to Improving Well-Being of Others

    NEW YORK, 1 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks delivered 30 September by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) dinner in New York:

    It’s a delight for Nane and me to be here, as always. It’s so important now and then to feel that one is completely surrounded by friends. And that’s how we feel every year, when we gather with the friends and supporters of the United Nations brought together by UNA-USA.

    It’s especially exciting to be here to pay tribute to this year’s honourees -- Oprah Winfrey, Joan Ganz Cooney and Pete Peterson. All of them are Americans who have demonstrated, through their lives and work, a deep dedication to improving the well-being of their own country and the well-being of people around the world.

    Oprah, your ability to connect with others has touched the hearts and lives of millions of viewers. I can tell you, I sometimes feel envious in my dealings with world leaders and I wish I had your communication skills. And you have used your skills and your empathy to go far beyond the world of television entertainment. Through your passionate commitment to education, health, and the cause of women’s empowerment and the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide, you have given many people around the world the gift of hope -- a hope for a better life.

    I am equally envious of Joan Ganz Cooney’s gift for using communication in the service of education, and I don’t think anyone has been more successful than Joan. The Children’s Television Workshop is a model for people of all ages. After all, who can reach children with a message of tolerance and understanding better than our friends on Sesame Street, such as Big Bird and Elmo?  And who, in turn, can get through to grown-ups better than their own children?

    And as for Pete Peterson, I cannot compete with the varied talents of this Renaissance man. From fiscal policy to the future of philanthropy, and to the ageing of our planet’s population, Pete has been very successful and an uncannily reliable compass, helping decision-makers to discern where national interest and human interest converge. Actually, my own hair began to go grey around about the time he produced his book on ageing, called the Gray Dawn. But I’m not sure that was his intention. Anyway, I live in hope that I will be half as wise as him one day, and before I leave this planet.

    Oprah, Joan and Pete, you are an inspiration to all of us in this room and to many, many others who are not here with us tonight. I salute you and I congratulate you on the awards you are receiving tonight.  Nobody deserves them more.

    I believe all of you are here tonight because we have something in common -- a conviction that today, more than ever, the world needs an effective mechanism through which to tackle common problems and seek common solutions.

    Never has there been a more pressing need for us to strengthen the system of collective security, to forge a true global partnership for development, and to promote greater tolerance and understanding among people. Never has there been a greater need to build greater international solidarity in tackling humanitarian emergencies, like the one in Darfur.

    That is the serious work that lies ahead of us, the international community. That is what the United Nations was created for. And as I told the General Assembly last week, let’s not imagine that, if we fail to make good use of it, we will find any more effective instrument.

    We in the United Nations know that our work is never done. But we also know that you in this audience will continue to offer us your support and guidance. And that has given us strength as we confront the challenges ahead.

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