Kofi Annan draws more than 1,000 to SXU’s fourth Voices and Visions lecture

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan drew more than 1,000 people to the Saint Xavier University Shannon Center on Thursday as he spoke on the nature of international diplomacy and the need for multilateral approaches in solving problems.

Annan served as United Nations Secretary-General from 1997 to 2006. During his tenure, he made his mark as an advocate for human rights, the rule of law and the revitalization of the United Nations. He has been a key figure in the fight against HIV/AIDS and a leader of the multilateral response to the global terrorist threat. When elected to the Secretary-Generalship in 1997, Annan became the first Secretary-General to come directly from the United Nations staff, and the first from a black African nation to hold the position.

Annan’s lecture outlined his five principles for international diplomacy: collective responsibility, global solidarity, the rule of law, mutual accountability and multilateralism. He also spoke to the importance of being members of a global community.

“You must constantly look outwards beyond the boundaries of community and country,” Annan said. “We have seen the power and the forces of globalization. We now have to make sure we can shape them for good.”

The City of Chicago recognized Annan’s visit by proclaiming Sept. 17, 2009 as Kofi Annan Day.

“It is a rare honor for Saint Xavier to host such a world renowned figure and international statesman,” said Robert Tenczar, vice-president for University Relations. “This fourth installment of the University’s highly successful Voices and Visions lecture series resulted in a very special night to remember for everyone in attendance.”

Before his lecture, Annan conducted a classroom discussion with a small group of Saint Xavier students. Saint Xavier Student Government Association President Mark Piper called the discussion “fantastic.”

“Mr. Annan’s international perspective and willingness to answer any question directly was both engaging and a thrill for all of us,” Piper said.

Since leaving the United Nations, Annan has continued to press for better policies to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in Africa. He has also continued to use his experience to mediate and resolve conflict. In Kenya in early 2008, Annan led the AU Panel of Eminent African Personalities to help find a peaceful resolution to the post-election violence.