Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations in New York City

September 24, 2014

Well, good afternoon. First of all, you should know that the Secretary-General was late because of me. I take the blame.

Second of all, I do think it's appropriate to thank the incredible hospitality of the people of New York City. Some of you know I lived in New York, went to school in New York, love New York, love the people. But as somebody who has lived here as a civilian during UNGA, it is no fun. [Laughter] In fact, in 2008, I had already won the nomination, was a month away from my election as President, and had full Secret Service, and I still couldn't get through the traffic and had to walk three blocks in order to get into the building. [Laughter] That's how bad it was. So it is tough.

But the people of New York, we want to thank you for doing what you do, because you are such an incredible, incredible city.

I've already given a long speech today. I'm going to be very brief. As host nation, I want to thank all of you for your commitment to our work. Nobody works harder and truer to the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations than our Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. And so I want to publicly thank him for his tireless work on every issue, from Ebola to climate change, to violations of human rights, to armed conflict, he is on the job and been doing outstanding work.

I also want to recognize the thousands of men and women at the United Nations who give meaning and action to all the words that we politicians produce during the course of General Assembly meetings and Security Council meetings. Oftentimes, they operate outside of the limelight. But if it were not for their dedication, hard work, and sacrifice, then this would just be a debating club. And so we want to thank very much the—all the employees and staff of the United Nations not just for helping to facilitate this meeting, but for what they do all year around. Thank you very much.

Along those same lines, we want to salute the thousands of Blue Helmets who stand sentinel around the world, particularly across Africa and the Middle East. The tragic loss of five peacekeepers in Mali last week reminds us that there are real risks that these peacekeepers take on so that others can lead a better life. We salute the United Nations aid workers who are on the front lines of humanitarian efforts in Syria, delivering comfort and support to civilians battered by civil war. And we thank the heroic U.N. health workers in West Africa who are combating Ebola and caring for the sick at some risk to themselves.

These men and women, from so many of our nations, reflect the common pursuit of peace and prosperity. We could not be prouder of their work. They represent what I think the United Nations should be all about. And when I think of them, I'm reminded that although all of us have the extraordinary privilege of representing our countries in very high offices, the truth is, change happens on the ground, and none of us can do this alone.

So I propose a toast to the human spirit that these workers and personnel and peacekeepers around the world represent: the best of who we are and what we all share in common as children of God and as people who hope to pass on peace and prosperity to our children and our grandchildren for generations to come.


NOTE: The President spoke at 1:51 p.m. at United Nations Headquarters.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




New York

Simple Search of Our Archives