5 December 2003


NEW YORK, 4 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Gala in Beverly Hills on 3 December:

Thank you very much, Carol [Bellamy].

It’s hard to believe that half a century has passed since Danny Kaye ventured out on behalf of UNICEF, with his heart, his humour, his name and his fame as his only weapons, to help make the world a better place for children.

On the day Danny Kaye became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a new kind of star was born. 

The kind that shines its light on the hardship and injustices suffered by the children of this world.

The kind that confronts us and melts away our indifference.

The kind that forces us to admit that we can and must do something to help.

The kind of star epitomized by Audrey Hepburn, who touched the hearts of millions of people with her elegance and eloquence -- and used those talents to draw attention to the needs of children.

Then, the top hat and tails of Danny Kaye’s time gave way to the tousled mops of the Fab Four.  The tale of Walter Mitty was replaced by the legend of Sergeant Pepper.  We learned to sing “here comes the sun”, as the new era brought us someone I particularly want to pay tribute to tonight.

George Harrison was the first to understand and use the power of rock music to motivate people to embrace causes bigger than themselves.

Not only did George’s sensitive and spiritual music bring profound joy and poignancy to millions of people around the world.

His character, compassion, conscience and sense of our common humanity compelled him to do even more than that.

When George heard a call for help, he wanted to answer it.  He wanted others to hear it and answer it too.  We will never forget the opening of his title song for Bangla Desh [and I quote]:  “My friend came to me with sadness in his eyes/ He told me that he wanted help before his country dies”.

As one newspaper summed up at the time:  “Under the leadership of George Harrison, a group of rock musicians recognized, in a deliberate, conscious, and professional way, that they have responsibilities… and went about dealing with them seriously”.

George Harrison’s work to mobilize awareness and raise funds for the people of Bangladesh will be remembered, not only for the millions of lives it helped heal, but also because it paved the way for countless later initiatives by other artists and we’ve seen it here tonight.

In the more than 30 years that have passed since, this kind of advocacy by celebrities has multiplied, expanded and found new forms of expression we could never have imagined.

And it’s hard to imagine how all this could have happened without the contribution of George Harrison -- or the sound of his guitar gently weeping.

I hope that George Harrison’s example, and the short film we are about to see, will serve as an inspiration to new generations of stars to join the humanitarian family.  The United Nations stands ready to welcome you, and to work with you.  You saw UNICEF leader Carol Bellamy and she really needs you to help.

Congratulations, UNICEF, on 50 years of goodwill ambassadors -- and let's hope for many more.

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