Elizabeth Untama / Gavel Media

Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Speaks at Boston College

Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke about Human Welfare and Global Citizenship at Robsham Theater on Tuesday evening. Ban shared insight from his nine-year tenure as Secretary General and discussed his hopes and concerns for the global future. 

In the speech, he identified three issues as particularly important challenges facing the world today: sustainable development, climate change, and the empowerment of women and youth. He emphasized the importance of international institutions like the UN as being key to solving these problems. In discussing sustainable development, Ban brought up the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and noted several of its recent achievements such as the reductions in poverty and child mortality, as well as improved sanitation.

Despite this progress, he noted that there is still much to be done. He described his lofty goals of eliminating poverty and child mortality by 2030. “That’s why I am touring many universities, asking professors to do much more in asking young people to be ready,” he said.

Ban, who is from South Korea, applauded the diplomacy displayed at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics between North and South Korea and expressed hope for an improved relationship on the Korean peninsula. 

He then turned to climate change, stressing, “We have no time to lose.” Ban cautioned that as temperatures increase, Boston will face a dramatic rise in sea level. 

Ban described the importance of the Paris climate accords:  “We need to make sure that the climate change agreement that was adopted in Paris two years ago is fully implemented." He went on to address the United States' decision to withdraw from the accords, making it the only nation in the world not in the agreement.  

“This is based on the wrong vision and is short sighted,” he said. “If the US administration continues this way, then the US. will be standing on the wrong side of history. Before it is too late, I hope that they will change.”

Despite this, Ban was hopeful because of the emergence of grass-roots efforts to combat climate change in the US. He commended some American cities, including Boston, for remaining committed to the Paris accords, even though the federal government has announced that it will withdraw.

Ban called for “global leadership based on global vision.” He also challenged students to be the leaders of tomorrow, as well as called on Boston College professors. 

“I’m asking the professors here to teach global citizenship to the students, to foster global citizenship," said Ban. 

Ban described how in 1962, as a college freshman, he visited the White House and heard President John F. Kennedy speak. He recounted how he had been inspired by the President’s faith in youth as the leaders of a more prosperous future.

“Almost 60 years later, I am now saying almost the same thing to young students,” Ban said.

Ban also expressed concern over the growing separation between nations: “Rather than dismantling walls between countries, leaders are erecting walls to prevent refugees and migrants and foreigners from coming in," he said. "Please do not erect walls. Instead build bridges among people.”

Ban concluded his speech with some advice for students, encouraging compassion and urging students to look beyond their immediate surroundings and adopt an attitude of global stewardship.

“Dear students, you hold the keys to unlock a more sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous world. You are the innovators, you are changemakers, you are the leaders, and you are the global citizens of both today and tomorrow,” he said. “Despite the challenges we currently face, if we join together in strong partnerships and move forward as global citizens, we can achieve our global goals and create a brighter future.”

Students who attended the event said that they were inspired by Ban's talk.

“I think it’s really inspiring to see someone of such great influence talk to the youth and talk about how the youth is the future and how we are the ones who need to be empowered to make change," said Young Oh, MCAS '20. 

Following Ban’s speech, Margaret Lombe, an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, briefly responded to the speech and affirmed that BC takes global citizenship seriously. Six students representing various on-campus groups also had the opportunity to ask Mr. Ban questions.

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