Press Releases

                26 May 2004

    Secretary-General Praises Elie Wiesel on 75th Birthday as Good Friend, Staunch Defender of Victims of Hatred, Bigotry

    NEW YORK, 25 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks delivered yesterday by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at Anti-Defamation League’s Gala Celebration of Elie Wiesel’s 75th birthday:

    It is a pleasure to be here tonight.

    Elie Wiesel is a good friend of mine.  I have turned to him for advice on many occasions.  I have been enriched by his lectures, and moved by his renowned story-telling.  Nane and I have also been privileged to enjoy his company in smaller settings.  But far more important than my own good fortune in knowing him, is what Elie’s work and wisdom have meant for all humankind.

    His unforgettable books have given us searing testimony about the Holocaust and the face of absolute horror.  He has done as much as anyone to raise awareness of the plague of anti-Semitism.  And he has been among the staunchest defenders of people victimized by hatred and bigotry in many parts of the world.  It is that combination of eloquence and empathy that led me to ask him to become a United Nations Messenger of Peace.  He has been a good friend to the United Nations, too.

    Elie’s imprint on the collective conscience is historic and profound.  Even as we pay tribute to him for that contribution, we know that his voice is still needed.  Our collective conscience cannot help but be deeply troubled today:  by violence and injustice in the Middle East, by divisions on so many issues, by despair in so many places.  These are all challenges with solutions.  But we will not find them unless our consciences are duly aroused.  Elie, the world needs you to carry on doing what you do best.  And that is to speak out, build bridges, and raise the alarm about the wrongs afflicting our world.

    Elie, the world knows you for your permanently furrowed brow, and for a face that communicates so well the anguish of the human condition.  I hope that tonight, at least, you will smile as friends and admirers from around the world sing your praises.  Nane and I are happy to be among them, and join in wishing you a very happy birthday.

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