This week the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, delivered a speech to graduates at Seton Hall University in the United States.
It struck Croakey that sections of his speech could be re-purposed for members of Australia’s 47th Parliament.
You can read the full version here, or selected quotes below. He quoted the university’s motto Hazard Zet Forward – “Whatever the peril, go forward”.
As you reflect on how far you’ve come, let’s take a moment to recognise all those who stood by your side and helped get you here with a big round of applause.
…you now have a priceless opportunity to give back, and be the “servant leaders” that our world needs.
Your path may not be straight or predictable.
The most important skills I gained from my education and my University, were “learning how to learn,” how to work with others, how to communicate ideas, and – above all – how to make a difference in the world.
I feel it is my duty to report that you are entering a world brimming with peril.
We face conflicts and division on a scale not seen in decades – from Yemen to Syria, from Ethiopia to the Sahel and beyond.
And, of course, the war in Ukraine – a violation of that country’s territorial integrity and the Charter of the United Nations – is causing immense human suffering, destruction and death.
It is also exacerbating a food, energy and finance crisis around the world.
Meanwhile, the climate crisis is wreaking havoc, and threatening to erase entire communities and even entire countries – with governments failing to take the action needed to turn this around.
Poverty, exclusion and inequality are worsening.
The gap between the “haves” and “have nots” in every country is widening.
Hunger and famine stalk millions.
Human rights are under assault.
Women are still largely shut out of the halls of power and boardrooms of business.
Knowledge, science and expertise are being devalued by conspiracy theories and outright lies.
People increasingly mistrust their institutions, their governments – even each other.
The misuse of social media is undermining the social fabric.
Hate and extremist thought are being amplified across societies – seen tragically, once again, by the outrageous racist massacre in Buffalo ten days ago.
Global solidarity is missing in action – from the scandalously unequal rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, to the absence of support to help developing countries recover.
And geopolitical fault lines are spreading fast.
From the Middle East…to the threat of a new Cold War with grave nuclear undertones…to terrorism and sectarian fighting within countries rooted in ancient grievances…to an explosion of extreme nationalism that ignores the central truth that international solutions are always in the national interest.
Each challenge is another sign that our world is deeply fractured.
As I tell world leaders across my travels, these wounds will not heal themselves.
They cry out for international solutions.
They demand that countries stand with one another within a strong multilateral system.
Building a better, more peaceful future requires collaboration and trust, which are sorely lacking in today’s world.
I have hope that you will succeed where my generation failed.
You will be the generation that succeeds in ending extreme poverty and hunger, and reducing inequality.
You will succeed in developing new technologies and breakthroughs that can end disease and suffering.
You will succeed in replacing hatred and division with reason, civil discourse, and peaceful dialogue.
You will succeed in building bridges of trust among people – and recognise the inherent dignity and rights we share as human beings.
You will succeed in balancing the scales of power for women and girls, so they can build better futures for themselves and for us all.
You will succeed in closing the fault lines and healing the divisions that needlessly scar our world.
And my friends, you must be the generation that succeeds in addressing the planetary emergency of climate change.
Despite mountains of evidence of looming climate catastrophe, we still see mountains of funding for coal and fossil fuels that are killing our planet.
That money continues to flow from some of the biggest names in finance, hedge funds and private equity.
But we know investing in fossil fuels is a dead end – economically and environmentally.
No amount of greenwashing or spin can change that.
So we must put them on notice: Accountability is coming for those who liquidate our future.
…my message to you is simple: Don’t work for climate-wreckers.
Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future.
…we are not only privileged to have the talents or advantages we have. We also bear a solemn responsibility not to squander them, but to use them in a responsible and constructive way to the benefit of those who are less privileged than us.
Throughout history, humanity has shown that we are capable of great things. But only when we work together.
Only when we overcome differences and work in the same direction, with the same aim – to lift all people up, not only those born to wealth and advantage.
Only when we look to all people as fellow global citizens – with goodwill, tolerance and respect.
I urge you – Be useful. Be mindful. Be kind. Be bold.
Be generous with your talents.
Hazard Zet Forward!