SECRETARY-GENERAL PRAISES PAST, PRESENT
I am very happy to see you all at the United Nations this evening. For me, seeing friends from Macalester always feels a bit like seeing family -- and it’s even nicer when family members come to visit in one’s own house.
Macalester and I certainly go back a long way. In the four decades since I graduated, the world has changed a great deal. Throughout these changes, Macalester has kept pace admirably. But there is one thing that has remained constant: Macalester’s international engagement. That engagement demonstrates the fallacy of a certain perception of America -- the perception of an insular America with no interest or understanding of other peoples and cultures. Macalester’s global outlook shows us a very different reality. And it gave those of us who studied there in my day a head-start in a world that has since become more closely integrated than any of us then imagined.
When I arrived at Macalester in the fall of 1959, the flag of the United Nations had already been flying there for nine years -- as it does today. As soon as you set foot on campus, you could sense that there was a feeling of involvement in the world. This manifested itself in many ways: not only did Mac instil an international outlook among all its students; already in those days, its student body was in itself truly international.
A sense of solidarity ran through that international engagement. Mac welcomed Japanese-American students who had been interned during World War Two, German Jewish faculty members who had survived the horrors of the Holocaust, and young people fleeing the communist repression in Eastern Europe.
And you welcomed me, a young scholarship student from Africa, whose country had gained independence just two years earlier. For me, the winters of Minnesota took a bit of adapting to; but the rest of the experience was as warm as sunshine in Ghana. Because Mac was so open to people from other cultures, I found an open door to the culture of this country.
There was the Ambassadors for Friendship Program which took me -- along with an Iranian, an Indian and a Japanese -- on a caravan journey to discover America beyond Minnesota. There was the Span club, which involved making and selling sandwiches to raise funds for students to study abroad. (I suspect our enthusiasm was meant to make up for the quality of the sandwiches.) There was our soccer team, which didn’t win quite as many matches as we players would have liked -- but the yearbook noted that our side’s performance was overshadowed by our "international atmosphere, as the team represented 11 different countries". And Garrick Utley, who kept goal for a rival college, is generous enough to still remember Mac’s African striker putting one or two past him!
I could not have wished for a better preparation for life and for my career, than what Macalester gave me. And I am still proud to call Mac my alma mater. Today, about half of Mac’s students have studied in other countries, and 14 per cent of Mac’s students are from other countries -- 78 different countries, in fact.
Your celebration of diversity, your understanding of what makes up our common humanity, make you a true ally of the United Nations. And it makes you, and other universities like you across the United States, an inspiration in the challenging times we live in. May you keep educating citizens of the world for many years to come.
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