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Melanie Woods

United Nations secretary general speaks at University of Calgary

By Melanie Woods, August 12 2016 —

In his first official visit to Alberta, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon spoke to hundreds of students at the University of Calgary August 12.

Formally titled, “A call to youth: the UN in Canada in a changing world,” the evening — coinciding with International Youth Day — included a 20-minute talk followed by a question and answer period.


United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon speaks at the University of Calgary.

The proceedings began on a light note, as the UN leader referenced several U of C staples and traditions to start his speech.

“I would have come for your last day of classes,” Ban said. “[But] I look terrible in Bermuda shorts.”

The secretary general also lamented how his Friday visit “just missed Thursden,” sparking laughter in the crowd.

The body of the speech highlighted key points on sustainability, indigenous issues and youth unemployment.

“Youth can do more than find jobs, they can create them,” Ban said. “Don’t only seek jobs, invent them.”

Ban also commended the Alberta government’s steps to cap greenhouse gas emissions and spoke out firmly against climate change.

“Whether climate change is happening or not — that debate is over,” he said.

Around 300 students attended the invite-only event at the U of C’s EEEL building. In a nod to the venue, Ban highlighted the importance of education.

“Education is not something you take, it is something you use to give back to the world,” he said. “Each and every one of you should be the drivers of change.”

During the Q&A period, the UN leader faced questions from students on topics such as entrepreneurship, developmental aid and gender equality.

Fourth-year business student Lillian Liu asked what youth have to do to make their voices heard.


Fourth-year business student Lillian Liu asks Ban Ki-moon how young people can make their voices heard.

In reply, Ban stressed that young people should know the value of their voice.

“You should also try to make your cause known to your society, particularly [your] political leaders,” he said.

After the event, Liu said the chance to speak with the secretary general was a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“When I’m at home, my grandpa turns on the news [and] the United Nations comes up. Just seeing [Ban Ki-moon] speak in person, it was a phenomenal experience,” Liu said. “I’m very honoured to be here tonight.”

The proceedings began with remarks from U of C provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall, as well as Students’ Union president Stephan Guscott and Graduate Students’ Association president Samantha Hossack.

Noted guests in attendance included deputy premier and Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman and U of C donor Geoffrey Cumming.

Ban is a South Korean national and took over as UN secretary general in 2006. His term ends Dec. 31 2016.

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