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UN Secretary General talks global citizenship, ‘Gangnam Style’

Photo by Luke Nankivell, photo editor

Standing before a crowd in Sheslow Auditorium on Friday, President David Maxwell said that it took a truly important person like United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to get 500 college students out of bed on a Friday morning.

The event featured a speech by Ban as well as a question and answer session. Development Event Coordinator Nancy Strutzenberg said it was Ban who approached the university about speaking.

“It is my understanding that he was going to be in town speaking at the World Food Prize, and the U.N. called and asked if he could come speak at the university,” Strutzenberg said. “He apparently does this on a regular basis, go to different parts of the country, and was very interested in speaking to our students.”

Strutzenberg believes this initiative on Ban’s part reflects the university and its mission to make its students global citizens.

“He could have chosen not to come. He could have chosen other universities, but the fact that he chose our university. I think really shows part of our mission to encourage our student’s global citizenship and to prepare them for their global citizenship,” Strutzenberg said. “I think it was remarkable.”

Ban’s message centered on the idea of global citizenship and outlined his three tests of global citizenship: sustainable development, to meet people’s aspirations for democracy and to improve the worlds of women and young people.

“My message has been that even though you are an American citizen, to also be a global citizen,” Ban said during his speech.

This message of a global outlook resonated with Taylor Morris,  first-year politics major.

“I think it is a good topic because everything is becoming increasingly connected with the internet and new technology, so people are citizens of the world as well as their country,” Morris said.

Morris thinks that events like the Ban speech help students realize this.

“I think it is important because being aware of what is going on in the world besides what is immediately in front of you is important. Going to events like this offers you a way to do that,” Morris said.

Fellow first-year Brien Behling gravitated more towards Ban’s vision of leadership.

“(My favorite quote) was that ‘leaders must lead by example,’” Behling said. “He made it very clear that he is willing and has caused the change. He has inspired people to follow then instead which is what I feel a leader should do.”

Behling thought that Ban also showed his leadership in his willingness to joke.

“I thought the (jokes) were pretty funny. I thought that it was a good way to lighten the mood because a lot of the time people in that situation of having so much power, they come off as very lofty and unapproachable,” Behling said. “I felt him making those jokes showed him to be an average person who has been chosen to do all this very important stuff.”

Ban told several jokes throughout his speech.

“The other day, when I was introduced by a journalist saying that I had been the most well-known, the most famous, Korean in this world, but I had to relinquish the title to PSY and ‘Gangnam Style,’” Ban said.

Strutzenberg was also impressed with the jokes.

“I was very surprised at his humor and how well-spoken he was. His English was very good. I just think he really engaged the whole audience,” Strutzenberg said.

Morris thought Ban was engaging because of the different perspective he brought.

“It was interesting hearing someone’s thoughts on world events who is not American. You do not hear that as often,” Morris said. “I saw Jimmy Carter and he was also a world leader, but (Ban) is currently serving as one, so it gives a viewpoint that is more current.”

Behling agrees that it was a unique opportunity for students.

“He went out of his way to come here, while he is still in office,” Behling said. “He is not campaigning, he is not trying to get re-elected, he is here to share his message and to try to inspire us to help the world as a whole.”

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