Annan promotes global citizenship

By Amy Lieberman, Matthew Stone

For the leaders of Macalester’s new Institute for Global Citizenship, last Saturday was a unique opportunity to promote the college’s emerging initiative. For students and others in attendance, it was an opportunity to see Macalester’s famed alumnus, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan ’61, in person.

Annan visited Macalester as the second inaugural speaker for the Institute, an initiative that administrators say will integrate a more sustained focus on global citizenship throughout the college. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman visited the college last month. A third speaker, author Toni Morrison, will deliver the convocation address on campus in the fall as the Institute prepares to formally open its doors.

Following a ceremony at which Annan raised a new United Nations flag in front of Weyerhaeuser Chapel, students packed over half of the 1,900 seats set up in the Fieldhouse. Faculty, staff, alumni and guests who requested some of the 900 tickets filled the other seats.

U.N. security denied admittance to many students and ticket holders—a line that stretched from the Fieldhouse to the Campus Center—after Annan had arrived.

“The security said no more people. We feel really bad about that, but it was out of our control,” said College Relations Director Doug Stone. “You cannot get to an event like that too early when you’re dealing with security for a big leader.”

Preparations for the affair were extensive and the schedule timed to the minute.

Before Annan took the stage at 10 a.m., students bearing a collection of national flags marched to the stage area; professors, donning academic robes, also proceeded to their seats.

Annan, accompanied by President Brian Rosenberg, Provost Diane Michelfelder, Chaplain Lucy Forster-Smith and a team of security guards entered the gymnasium to sustained applause and a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

“The reaction of the students and audience must have warmed his heart,” said John Whitehead, Chairman of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, who was in attendance. “They were truly very generous. For a small Midwestern college, and you’re given that kind of greeting, it is a very moving thing.”

“I think he was having a good time,” Whitehead, who is also Annan’s neighbor and friend of 10 years, continued.

The Secretary-General’s speech was brief, lasting just over 15 minutes, but covered a wide range of topics.

Connecting his remarks to the Institute’s launch, Annan said that awareness of internationalism and multiculturalism was, now more than ever, essential to succeed in the world. He praised Macalester as an institution, saying that the school fosters understanding of such concepts. Annan mentioned that when he arrived at Macalester in 1959, the U.N. flag had already been flying for nine years.

“The Institute for Global Citizenship is the latest expression of the global outlook that has always been part of Macalester’s community and soul,” Annan said.

The Secretary-General also addressed a host of global problems, listing poverty, avian flu, terrorism and HIV/AIDS as some examples.

“These are problems that no one country, no matter how powerful, can tackle alone. We need to come together and work out global solutions,” Annan said.

He highlighted the link between long-term security, development and human rights.

“There is no long-term security without development. There is no development without security,” he said. “No country can remain secure or prosperous without respect for human rights.”

The U.N., Annan said, plays an essential role in generating these solutions. He said that he would like to see in the future a U.N. that is “transparent, accountable and an imbedded instrument of service to mankind.”

The U.N. leader appeared relaxed on stage, garnering spontaneous applause at several points when his sense of humor surfaced.

When President Rosenberg introduced Annan, he referenced his 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, but also, his former title as record holder of Macalester’s 60-yard dash, and runner-up placement for doubles in the 1960 table-tennis tournament.

Rosenberg later read a student question about what from his Macalester years set him on the track to become U.N. Secretary-General. Annan responded without missing a beat. “The ping-pong tournament,” he said.

When asked if his future plans include coming back to Macalester to work for the Institute of Global Citizenship, Annan joked, “If Dean [Ahmed] Samatar will have me.”

Samatar, interviewed after the speech, said that he would be eager to include Annan in plans for the Institute.

“For him it was a joke, for us it’s serious,” said Samatar, who was recently named the Institute’s dean. “That will be one of my goals.”

Mostly, Annan’s speech came back to internationalism and global citizenship, a topic he also spoke to The Mac Weekly about during a press conference following the speech.

In order to become a global citizen, Annan said, “One has to stand by one’s responsibility to become engaged, to become concerned with what is happening with the community.”

The press conference, for Annan, followed a stroll around campus with Rosenberg during which the Secretary-General popped into Caf’¨ Mac, eliciting applause from students there. He also posed for pictures with students outside the Campus Center.

The Secretary General’s remarks generated positive reactions from nearly all those interviewed Saturday.

“I thought it was fantastic,” said Trustee Ruth Stricker Dayton ’57. “He has such a quiet manner of leadership that it is almost spiritual.”

Kim Wortmann ’08 said she was impressed by Annan’s speech although she would have liked to see the Secretary-General appear more decisive.

“I think it was slightly disappointing because [Annan] had to be the diplomat,” Wortmann said. “Though his remarks were very good, I think he could have taken a stronger stance, especially with regard to the U.S.—he kind of skirted the issue.”

Annan had offered only measured criticism for the United States’ involvement in the U.N. in response to a question submitted by a student.

For Colin Mothupi ’00, a Trustee, Annan’s message carried inspiration.

“The sentiments that really vibrated in my mind are about hope,” he said, citing recent world events that have dampened the spirits of some. “If [Annan] can still maintain a hopeful and positive mind-state, there’s no reason we shouldn’t. He deals with [those issues] firsthand.”

At luncheon, business roundtable honors Annan

Following his remarks in the field house and a press conference, Annan attended a lunch in the Hill Ballroom where he accepted an award for Principled Leadership from the St. Paul-based Caux Roundtable, an international organization of business leaders who advocate corporate citizenship and responsibility.

In accepting the award, Annan indicated that he hoped his successor as U.N. Secretary-General would be a woman, as all seven Secretary-Generals have been men. Annan will step down after two five-year terms as Secretary-General at the end of this year.

The Caux Roundtable speakers, which included the group’s director Steve Young and Lord Daniel Brennan of the British House of Lords, praised Annan for his work on the Global Compact, a U.N. initiative that encourages corporate citizenship among businesses worldwide.

“Your wonderful creation of the Global Compact enables us to put those ideals into practice,” Brennan said.

St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman a
lso spoke, praising Annan for his attention to recent reports on the desecration of Hmong graves in a Thai refugee camp. The Twin Cities are home to the largest Hmong population in the United States.

“He was not only aware, he pledged to do something about it,” Coleman announced.