UN secretary-general opens 100th convention
At a special appearance at the opening plenary session of the 2009 RI Convention in Birmingham, England, on 21 June, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Rotarians for their work in advancing social justice.
Speaking to a packed hall, Ban called Rotary the heart and soul of the worldwide polio eradication effort and pledged the UN's continued cooperation and support.
"Rotary's vision of a polio-free world is in sharp focus," the secretary-general said. "I am with you in this campaign.
"Now is the time to finish the job. I call on global governments all around the world to help us," he continued. "Together, we can fulfill Rotary's vision and give future generations a polio-free world."
More than 14,900 attendees from 154 countries and geographical areas are convening in Birmingham for the 100th RI Convention. It is the second RI Convention for Birmingham , which hosted its first in 1984.
Ban's appearance demonstrates the close ties maintained by Rotary and the UN , which date back to 1945, when Rotarians helped draft the UN Charter. Ban said his appreciation for Rotary has deepened since he became secretary-general.
"I am deeply convinced the UN can continue to count on you to keep doing your part. One of the hallmarks of this new multinationalism is collaboration -- all partners must work together," he said. "And nothing will better convince the world that we can succeed than through completing the effort to eradicate polio."
Ban also asked Rotarians for their help in addressing other global challenges, including climate change, hunger, and a lack of access to energy.
RI President Dong Kurn Lee, a personal friend of Ban's, also took the stage.
Lee talked about how a business trip to Africa sparked his commitment to reducing child mortality. During that trip, he said, he was escorted to a village of mud huts by a local Rotarian. From one of the huts, he heard a cry, then saw a mother and child dying of hunger.
"At that moment, in my shock and horror, I wanted to do anything -- anything at all -- to help that mother and child," Lee said. "But then I realized that I was looking in only one hut, in only one village, in only one country, of the many, many poor and developing countries in the world.
"That was when I resolved to do everything I could to reduce the rate of child mortality and to Make Dreams Real ," he said.
Noting that the child mortality rate has dropped 27 percent in the past decade, Lee said he is certain Rotarians will continue the work and keep "making this great Rotary dream of a polio-free world into a reality."
The opening plenary session also included an East Meets West celebration that featured a variety of entertainment, including a reenactment of a royal court procession followed by the Little Angels children's choir, who sang "Greensleeves" in Korean and English, and a martial arts demonstration by the Tae Kwon Do Association of Great Britain.
Read "Ban Ki-moon receives polio champion award."