UN leader urges Stanford students to reach beyond borders for peace

Ban Edit U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking at Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Thursday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged Stanford students to become global citizens, working together beyond borders for peace, security and a common prosperity.

"You may come from the United States or Korea, Japan or elsewhere, Arab countries, but you're now part of a global family," Ban said to a crowded auditorium during his campus visit. "Therefore, it's very important to raise your capacity as global citizens. Only then, I think we can say, we're living in a very harmoniously prosperous world."

Despite a troubling tally of crises around the world, Ban was hopeful about the future, and said he gains inspiration from the younger generation.

"Everything my life has taught me points to the power of international solidarity to overcome any obstacle," he said.

Ban's speech, sponsored by Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, kicked off a series of events celebrating the 30th anniversary of the center.

Ban was introduced by former Secretary of Defense William Perry, an FSI senior fellow, who lauded Ban for his work on women's rights, climate change, nuclear disarmament and gay rights.

Ban told the audience that the world was undergoing massive changes and outlined three ways to navigate the transition: sustainable development, empowering young people and women, and pursuing dignity and democracy.

"The level and degree of global change that we face today is far more profound than at any other period in my adult lifetime," he said.

"We have no time to lose," he added later.

California, he said, has led on clean air legislation, creating a cap-and-trade law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"I am convinced national and state action can spur progress in global negotiations, creating a virtuous cycle," he said.

Sustainable development, Ban said, goes hand in hand with creating peace. Noting the problems in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria, he said a country cannot be developed if there is no peace and security.

"Syria is in a death spiral," he said. He cited the toll the conflict has taken on Syria's citizens and surrounding countries since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. More than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed. Hundreds of thousands more have been displaced.

Ban spoke at Stanford as a hostage crisis also unfolded in the region.

In retaliation for military action by France in the West African nation of Mali, Islamist extremists in Algeria took several hostages at an international gas field Thursday. News organizations reported that the kidnappers and some hostages were killed in a raid by the Algerian government.

Ban spoke of the efforts by the United Nations to counter terrorism in Mali, where Islamist rebels last year took control in the north in the chaos following a military coup that ousted the elected government of President Amadou Toumani Touré.

"We must continue to work for peace," Ban said. "Our hard work cannot be reversed, especially for women and young people."

With half the world's population under the age of 25, Ban said the international community must support and empower that group.

Ban also said that fighting for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities was important in advancing peace and prosperity around the world.

"I have learned to speak out for one essential reason," he said. "Lives and fundamental values are at stake."

Ban told the students to harness a spirit of hope as they confront the challenges of the world.

For him, he said, that spirit was sparked by a visit to California decades ago. He reflected on an eight-day visit to the state in 1962, when he stayed with a family, the Pattersons, in Novato on a trip sponsored by the Red Cross.

"In many ways, I still carry the same energy and enthusiasm and sense of wonder that I did when I first landed on Miss Patterson's doorstep half a century ago," he said.

"I came back knowing what I wanted to do with my life and for my country," he said.

Ban said he still keeps in touch with his host, his "American mom," 95-year-old Libba Patterson, who was in the audience and stood to applause.

"It was here in California," he reflected to the students, "that I first felt I could grab the stars from the sky."

 Brooke Donald writes for the Stanford News Service.