Remarks by Ambassador David Killion on July 4, 2013
Madame Director General, fellow Permanent Representatives, colleagues, honored guests.
Thank you for joining us to celebrate the 237th birthday of the United States of America!
This evening we are delighted to honor jazz artist Marcus Miller. Marcus is taking on a key role as UNESCO Artist for Peace and Spokesperson for the Slave Route Project. You will shortly hear more from Director General Bokova and from Marcus himself about his involvement with UNESCO.
It is the right time for this important connection to be made. This year, we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Through his act of courage and conviction, President Lincoln marked the beginning of the end to the scourge of slavery in the United States.
We are also commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s seminal “I Have a Dream…” speech. On August 28, 1963, standing before the memorial to Abraham Lincoln, Dr. King called upon Americans – and people the world over – to live the dream of a free and equal society.
Five years ago, Barack Obama was elected to serve as the first African-American President of the United States. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Junior, and countless heroes of the American Civil Rights Movement laid the foundation for this historic moment in my country’s history.
American poet and author James Emanuel is one such hero. Mr. Emanuel wrote the definitive critical study of Harlem Renaissance leader Langston Hughes. He heavily influenced the birth of the genre of African American literature – helping to give wider voice to a community that had so often been overlooked. It is an honor to have James Emanuel here with us this evening. He has graciously agreed to share some of his poetry with us a little later in the program.
Martin Luther King Junior said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
We can be proud of the way that UNESCO and the United States delegation have stood strong in the face of the significant challenges of recent years. Together, we have created a legacy of collaboration and cooperation.
As I take the opportunity on America’s birthday to reflect on my tenure representing the U.S. Government at UNESCO, I see so much of which to be immensely proud:
In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Global Program for Girls’ and Women’s Education at UNESCO. Mrs. Clinton’s presence – the first visit in history by a sitting Secretary of State – was a potent symbol of U.S. support for UNESCO’s work.
Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock highlighted the power of music in building relationships among people through the creation of International Jazz Day – first in Paris and, most recently, in Istanbul, Turkey.
We have seen some phenomenal successes in relationships with American businesses. U.S. companies are more interested than ever in partnering with UNESCO. Proctor & Gamble has doubled its investment in the Global Program for Girls’ & Women’s Education and is expanding the program to more European markets. UNESCO’s lead role in promoting multi-stakeholder Internet governance has attracted support from companies such as Google and Intel. These companies recognize the value of UNESCO’s work as they look to consolidate existing markets and move into new ones.
During the past several years, the U.S. Geological Service has collaborated with UNESCO and USAID to map a potentially game changing water source in the Horn of Africa.
My delegation worked with the Russian Delegation, Director-General Bokova, and other like-minded partners to lay down the marker that politicized agendas are unacceptable at UNESCO. It was encouraging to see that fewer than half of the delegations at the recent World Heritage Committee meeting in Phnom Penh chose to support targeted, political resolutions.
The shared principles and objectives of UNESCO and the United States are woven into our cooperation throughout all of UNESCO’s sectors.
In his message for this July 4th, Secretary Kerry noted that the “Declaration of Independence is the most American of documents, and while we proudly associate ourselves with the promises of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in truth those ideals are not uniquely American. These rights actually belong to everyone on earth. These are values that we all share and they represent aspirations of people the world over.
To me, the beauty of UNESCO is how it reflects these universal values. I will continue my commitment to this organization and its mandate in the future, wherever I may be, just as I did for so many years working in the U.S. Congress before coming to UNESCO as Ambassador. I do not know if I will be here when our prolonged crisis ends, but I do trust that it will end.
UNESCO was designed to be inclusive and consensus-based. It is focused on protecting the enduring and universal values of peace and dialogue between peoples.
It is a privilege for me to participate in advancing UNESCO’s mandate of working for the betterment of humanity.