The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs will host a Director's Lunch with Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations in the Belfer Center Library (L369).

Ban Ki-moon served for ten years as the Secretary-General of the United Nations during a time of unprecedented turmoil and historic promise.

Born in 1944, just one year before the United Nations itself, Ban Ki-moon came of age with the global institution, experiencing its life-saving mission first-hand. At just six years old he fled with his family, trudging for miles in mud-soaked shoes, suffering from incessant hunger and fearing the future, as-yet unaware that the very United Nations which would come to the rescue would also become his life’s calling.

The massive reconstruction effort launched by the United Nations for South Korea benefited millions of people, including young Ki-moon, who studied the UN’s donated schoolbooks and survived thanks to its food rations. Along with knowledge and nutrition, this imbued the young boy with an appreciation of the life-saving value of global solidarity.

When he was 19, he received a life-changing opportunity to visit the United States with some 140 other teens from 44 different countries. The remarkable journey included a stop at the White House Rose Garden, where a brief but poignant meeting with President John F. Kennedy would forever alter young Ki-moon’s life when, inspired by the American leader, he resolved to dedicate himself to public service.

His career in the South Korean Foreign Ministry took him around the world, beginning in India and moving through prominent diplomatic postings, including Washington, DC, New York, and Vienna. He also served as Chief of Staff of the President of the United Nations General Assembly in 2001. Just hours before the General Assembly was to open and its new President to be elected, terrorists struck in the 9/11 attacks. The United Nations went into lockdown, but the General Assembly managed to adopt its first resolution of the session – a unanimous condemnation of the atrocity.

As Secretary-General, he was perhaps best-known for leading the international battle for a climate agreement. With the passion of a grassroots activist, Ban Ki-moon brought the global spotlight to the frontlines of the climate crisis, becoming the first Secretary-General ever to travel, in what amounted to a personal pilgrimage, to both the Arctic circle and Antarctica as well as Lake Chad, the Aral Sea, the Amazon and other hard-hit areas. He also took to the streets, marching side by side with citizens of the world demanding climate action.

The Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted in December, 2015. When it opened for signature the following April 22nd – Mother Earth Day, 2016 – 175 countries endorsed it in a matter of hours, setting a record for the most signatures in such a short time.

Working at a breakneck pace, the Secretary-General crisscrossed the planet, visiting more than 150 countries. During summit meetings in New York, he broke records for numbers of high-level meetings in what some compared to ‘diplomatic speed dating.’ He compared it to running a full marathon in successive top-speed, 100-meter sprints.

Raised on self-reflective eastern philosophy that guided his leadership style, Mr. Ban brought to the job Asian values that shaped his character from a young age. At the same time, he cultivated the global outlook and progressive spirit required to fill the post of Secretary-General. Married for nearly a half-century to his high school sweetheart, he would become a champion of the equality of all families, no matter their structure or composition. Convinced of the power of education, he would advocate for its primacy in development efforts everywhere. A veteran protestor against dictatorship in his own country, he would stand strong with young people demanding democracy around the world. From a dusty village in Korea, he would raise his voice for the planet and all people.

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Belfer Center Events Manager