Kofi Annan: cynosure-eyes

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Preface

The following 64 prayerful and soulful aphorisms I have written on the most auspicious occasion of our highly esteemed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's 64th birthday.

1.

Kofi Annan:
A mind illumining.

Kofi Annan:
A heart self-giving.

Kofi Annan:
A life truth-seeking.

2.

His life-boat plies
Between
The hope-shore
And
The promise-shore.

3.

Self-offering towards the Cause
And
A proper understanding of the world situation
Over decades
Have been his sleepless task.

4.

Fragrance sweet
And
Courage indomitable
Play hide-and-seek
In his cynosure-eyes.

5.

The Secretary-General most aptly tells
The conflicting countries
That world-conflict-settlements
Can take place
In the heart-expansion
And
The mind-enlightenment.

6.

Sleepless is his
World-betterment-hope-heart.

7.

Every single day
He is wont to offer
Inspiring and encouraging messages
To the four corners of the globe.

8.

Short-lived frustrations
May at times
Ruthlessly torture him,
But most of the time
He is his soul's adamantine will-power.

9.

His heart's wisdom-sunlight
Is at once measureless
And tireless.

10.

His compassion-heart
And illumination-mind
Unreservedly assist him
As he is piloting the World-Body-Boat.

11.

Slowly, steadily and unerringly,
Kofi Annan has repeatedly proved
To the world at large
That he is, indeed,
A mover of mountain-high difficulties.

12.

If the world abides
By his wisdom-surcharged suggestions,
Then the days of the world
Will be brighter
And the destination-road of the world
Will be shorter.

13.

The Secretary-General,
In unmistakable terms,
Tells the world
That the division-separation
Of the life-road
Is not inevitable.

14.

From his momentous speeches,
I clearly see and feel
That the Secretary-General sends
A signal message
To the strangling and struggling nations:
No country loses when the inner winner wins.

15.

His heart-home
Is frequented by
Earth-tears.

16.

Every day,
The smiles of his soul
Compassionately and unreservedly visit
Each and every heart-home of the world.

17.

To our greatest joy,
The relentless world-storms
Do not dare to shatter
His irrevocable faith in mankind.

18.

Faith always accompanies him
When he climbs
Mankind's life-ladder.

19.

He tells the world
To soften its mind
To improve its face.

20.

He also tells the world:
Forgiveness means
A happiness-fulness-life.

21.

The Secretary-General,
Supreme Pilot of the United Nations,
Charts his life-course
By the love-concern-stars and planets
Of the unhorizoned skies.

22.

Wherever he goes,
Earth-tears
And
Heaven-Smiles
Accompany him.

23.

The Secretary-General's mellifluous voice
Is founded upon
His all-mingling and all-assuring
Confidence-light.

24.

His soul's Himalayan silence
And
His mind's Olympian sound
Together live and enjoy
Reciprocal appreciation and admiration.

25.

Our eyes see the rainbow
Only after the clouds part.
The Secretary-General's eyes see the rainbow
Blooming and blossoming
And clearing the thickest clouds.

26.

189 countries have,
Either knowingly or unknowingly,
Thrust upon the Secretary-General
Their heavy responsibility-burdens.
God has blessed him
With two giant shoulders.

27.

He does not wait for the new year
To make a fresh start.
For him, every single day
Is the harbinger
Of a new and fresh start.

28.

A powerful Ghana-seed,
A fruitful Africa-tree,
A beautiful UN-flower
And
A blissful world-fruit
Kofi Annan at once is.

29.

He and world concern
Walk side by side
And step by step.

30.

Every day
He attempts the impossible
For the world-mind-illumination
And the world-life-transformation.

31.

The Secretary-General's assured victory's crown
Shall burst forth
Through chimera's mist
At God's choice Hour.

32.

His heart of oneness-sympathy
Never plays
The unjustified and unfounded
Blame-game.

33.

Every day,
In the face of overwhelming adversities,
His confidence-light-heart
Drives the UN-train
With passengers from 189 countries.

34.

His is the hope-beauty-fragrance-heart
That never dies.

35.

His is the mind
That knows no religion-fences.

36.

He flings his colossal heart-door
Wide open
To all and sundry.

37.

To his greatest joy,
Hope soulfully accompanies
Our beloved Secretary-General
As he passes through
This upside-down world.

38.

He suffers immeasurably
When he sees
The catastrophic confidence-collapse
Of certain countries.

39.

Countries that are at daggers drawn
Have unalloyed appreciation
For his sun-vast wisdom-light.
They never dream of burying him
Under an avalanche of criticism,
Unlike some of his predecessors.

40.

To our greatest sorrow,
Confusion has paralysed
Some world-improvement-thinkers.
Needless to say,
Kofi Annan is a rare exception.

41.

He deeply regrets one thing,
To be sure:
The stubborn unwillingness
Of certain ill-fated world figures.

42.

His power-poised eyes
Have a very strong voice
When necessity demands.

43.

His world-oneness-heart
Dreams and dreams
In the tranquillity of his soul.

44.

World-ignorance-night
Says to him:
"I shall not change."

He says to world-ignorance:
"Not for very long
Will you remain unchanged!"

Photograph

UN/DPI photo by Milton Grant

45.

In Silence supreme
The world-gratitude-heart
Most eloquently introduces Kofi Annan
To God the Creator
And God the Creation.

46.

His body takes needed rest,
But his aspiration-heart
And dedication-life
Take no respite.

47.

Dauntlessly forward he marches
And tells the world that eventually
Light will be the winner
And
Darkness will be the loser.

48.

The great hero in the Secretary-General
Wrestles adversities to the ground
By virtue of
His indomitable inner faith.

49.

His wisdom-flooded life
Is apt to show the world
That criticism-boomerang
In no time returns.

50.

The world-mind-disorder
Is rampant —
His sympathy-concern-heart
Is the witness.

51.

The cloudy world-mind says to him:
"Power I certainly have."
His loving and disarming life says:
"Love and concern I breathlessly am."

52.

His life-dreams
Look up.
His hope-realities
Look ahead.

53.

When the world-mind
And the world-vital clash,
His partiality-empty heart referees.

54.

He at once knows
And is
An unswerving loyalty
To world-progress.

55.

Tolerance and endurance
He rightly claims
To be his own, very own.

56.

Every prayer makes a striking difference in our life.
Kofi Annan graciously illumines us:

"Brothers and sisters, I need your prayers to sustain me in my work, and if you pray for me I am deeply grateful."

Photograph

Secretary-General Kofi Annan warmly greets Sri Chinmoy at the 20th annual International Friendship Run, held at the UN on 31 October 1998 in conjunction with the New York City Marathon. Sri Chinmoy offered a peace-prayer in silence at the opening ceremony of the run, in which 10,000 international runners participated.

57.

From him we learn that
Our life-improvement
Is infinitely more meaningful
And fruitful
Than our mind-arguments.

58.

From him also we learn
That genuine humility
Unmistakably outweighs
Disproportionate pride
On God's Scale.

59.

Something more,
From him we learn
That the birth of ego-foray
Needs must be foiled at once.

60.

He embodies
And wants us also to embody
Round-the-clock faith in humanity.

61.

Smilingly and confidently
He braves
The blinding world-destruction-storms.

62.

Although the Secretary-General
Is in the vortex of politics,
He is never too busy
To take care of his heart-home:
The United Nations.

63.

Unlike other Secretaries-General,
Our beloved Kofi Annan rose from the ranks
Of the UN staff.
His self-transcendence-magnificence
Shall know no end.
His soul-bird is a singer
Of the ever-transcending Beyond.

64.

Nane Annan's oneness with her husband
Can only be felt and never be fully described.
Kofi Annan is the flower of the United Nations,
Nane Annan is the beauty and the fragrance
Of the United Nations.
In every way,
They perfectly complement each other.

Photograph

Part II — Songs

KA 69-73. Sri Chinmoy has dedicated the following four songs to Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan, Kofi Annan, Kofi!
Your heart has won the UN's tallest trophy.
You are calmness within, boldness without,
A world peace-dreamer-heart, nowhere self-doubt.
Ghana's pinnacle-smile, Ghana's sky-pride,
Do take the world for a real oneness-ride.

Applaud us when we prevail

""Applaud us when we prevail, correct us when we fail, but above all do not let this indispensable, irreplaceable institution wither, languish or perish as a result of Member State indifference, inattention or financial starvation."
- Kofi Annan"

Man does not know

""Man does not know what he is capable of until he is asked."
- Kofi Annan"

I think I have always been

""I think I have always been quite strong and determined."
- Kofi Annan"

O dream of God1

O dream of God, O dream of man,
Your Soul smiles with perfection-plan.
O love of Truth, O truth of Love,
I see your flood of dance Above.


  1. KA 73-62. Sri Chinmoy has dedicated the following ten songs to the Soul of the United Nations

I pray for you, O UN soul

I pray for you, O UN soul
I pray for your victory's golden crown.
Your sun shall burst our bondage-frown.
No cry, no sigh, no darkness-role.

O body of the world

O body of the world,
O soul of the world,
In you the nest
Of cosmic oneness-rest.
Yours is the nectar-role.
Our souls desire to grow
In your duty's vision-glow.

U Thant

U Thant, U Thant,
We love your silence-soul,
We loved your compassion-heart.
Your world-harmony-role
Challenged ignorance-dart.
UN Pilot supreme,
You treasured perfection-dream.

I know you surely can

UN, UN, UN!
I know you surely can
Transform the human face,
Illume the earthly race
And strike the Hour supreme
To clasp your promise-dream.

With you began

UN, UN!
With you began
A fulness-cry
In oneness-sky.
For you I see
A flood-ecstasy.

O great UN!

O great UN! O good UN!
You own Eternity's sure ken.
Your soul-love shall never die.
All-where it soon will multiply.
You are our sun-vast promise-surprise
And God-waves high beyond surmise.

The United Nations

""The United Nations is the supreme law of the world."
- Trygve Lie"

In the wake of the most catastrophic war

""In the wake of the most catastrophic war in the history of mankind, humanity had a new vision: it saw the glimmer of dawn of a warless world."
- U Thant"

Gone are the days

""Gone are the days when each nation was an island unto itself."
- U Thant"

The wisdom-light of Secretary-General Kofi Annan

"The only true prize will be peace itself."

Just after hearing that he had won humanity's highest honour, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Secretary-General offered a deeply moving address at the United Nations General Assembly.

With utmost clarity and certainty, Nobel Laureate Kofi Annan voiced forth, "The only true prize will be peace itself."

Our beloved Secretary-General is empty of self-aggrandisement. At the moment of his greatest personal victory, he speaks the purest truth for the betterment of the entire humanity.

During his historic Nobel Lecture in Oslo, Kofi Annan bestows upon us his soul's ocean-vast wisdom: "We can love what we are, without hating what, and who, we are not."

O peace-hungry brothers and sisters, come, come! It is high time for us to walk and run behind him to receive boundless illumination-light.

To our great sadness, some years we sadly fail to concur with the decision that the Nobel Committee makes regarding the Nobel Peace Prize winner. But this time, to our greatest joy and satisfaction, Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the Nobel Peace Prize winner has enormously pleased all citizens of the world who cherish peace. This choice made by the Nobel Committee shall echo and re-echo in the aspiring peace-dreaming, peace-loving, peace-spreading and peace-fulfilling world-heart-hope.

Here is the proof of how the world regards the Secretary-General's achievements. The heart of the entire world rings with boundless ecstasy at the Secretary-General's being chosen as the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Letter to Kofi Annan1

12 October 2001

Highly esteemed Secretary-General,

…This momentous and historical achievement of yours and of the entire United Nations — receiving the centenary Nobel Peace Prize — is truly an unparalleled achievement for all humanity… At a time of unimaginable suffering, today's announcement has given precious hope and boundless joy to countless millions of peace-lovers and peace-servers throughout the length and breadth of the world. You offer a clarion call at every hush-gap for the family of nations to join together for the benefit of all… Through your stellar leadership and through a myriad of global programmes which you have initiated, the United Nations has become the heart-home of the entire humanity. Now the peace-loving world immediately and confidently looks to the United Nations to solve its most pressing problems…


  1. KA 84. Excerpt from a letter written by Sri Chinmoy upon hearing the momentous news of the Secretary-General's receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for 2001.

Letter to Professor Lundestad1

12 October 2001

Dear Professor Lundestad,

Esteemed Director of the Nobel Peace Committee, I am extremely happy and my heart is absolutely thrilled to learn that you have offered the world's most significant peace award to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and the United Nations. Definitely he greatly deserves this world-transformation-peace-award from the Nobel Peace Committee.

The Secretary-General is a peacemaker par excellence. Last December he made time in his extremely demanding schedule to appear on the popular educational children's show "Sesame Street". When the colourful muppets started arguing about whose turn it was to sing the alphabet song, the Secretary-General suggested that all of the characters sing together. The spirit of oneness prevailed, as they happily followed his wise advice.

When he was later asked what prompted him to take part in "Sesame Street", the Secretary-General replied, "I think it is wonderful to be able to reach the young, and reach them very early, and try to give them the spirit of the United Nations — a spirit of understanding, sharing and working together."

Kofi Annan offers all that he is and all that he has for peace-flowers to bloom and blossom on earth. In his case, unlike most other world leaders, the Secretary-General's childlike heart and his brilliant mind perfectly sport together.


  1. KA 85. Excerpt from a letter written by Sri Chinmoy to the Director of the Nobel Peace Committee, congratulating them for presenting the Nobel Peace Prize for 2001 to the Secretary-General.

2.

When Kofi Annan was elected Secretary-General, his very devout 88-year-old mother, Esi, said, "I give thanks to God for His Guidance."

Later, when she spoke with her son, she offered her loving advice: "There is more before you, and you still have to depend on the Lord."

The loving son thanked his mother for her wise advice and said, "Ma, thank you. But for you, I would not be what I am today."

The mother is all concern and the son is all gratitude. The Secretary-General has assimilated his dearest mother's advice inside the inmost recesses of his faith-filled heart. What is more, with his unalloyed humility-heart, he has given full credit for his world-transforming achievements to his beloved mother.

Many commentators have observed that the more serious the outer situation becomes, the more calm Kofi Annan becomes. Because of his dauntless faith in God, the Secretary-General faces countless catastrophes with measureless poise and offers the entire world a mountain of towering strength.

""The world is not ours to keep. We hold it in trust for future generations.""

This prophetic utterance of our dearest Secretary-General must echo and re-echo in the heart of each human being on this earth planet.

Soul-stirring writings of Mrs. Nane Annan

The United Nations, Come Along with Me! by Mrs. Nane Annan is an exquisitely moving book for children — the dreamers of today and the builders of tomorrow. It is a very intimate, very inspiring and very encouraging message from a mother to her world-children.

In her most inspiring, illumining and uplifting book, the First Lady of the United Nations has established her inseparable oneness with children's hearts. Therefore, this book is a must for each and every child to know all about the United Nations and the Secretary-General.

""Children are the losers in wars.""

How prophetic this utterance of Mrs. Annan is! In wars, children have no present, no past and no future. They have never had a past to carry inside their hearts; they lose what little wealth they had been given from the present; and they are cruelly denied the future.

Most definitely, the real losers in war are children. Their parents have stayed on earth for some time. They have given to Mother Earth and they have taken from Mother Earth. But the children have neither had the opportunity to offer to others, nor to receive from others.

When their parents are suddenly snatched away, their hope-sun is eclipsed.

""The United Nations is working to make sure that every child can go to school.""

Here Mrs. Annan is bringing to the fore so lucidly the hopes and promises of the United Nations.

Letters to the Secretary-General

KA 87-93. Excerpts from Correspondence between United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Sri Chinmoy.

16 December 19961

Your esteemed Excellency,

…The world community has recognised in your humble yet great capacity the vision-voice that the United Nations wants and needs to usher it into a new era of hope and fulfilment… Our thoughts and prayers are with you and for you as you embark upon your oneness-journey for world peace….

Sri Chinmoy


  1. KA 87. Congratulating the Secretary-General just prior to his commencing his first term of office.

26 April 1997

Dear and highly esteemed Secretary-General,

…I wish to offer you my deepest gratitude for the golden opportunity to participate in yesterday's most soulful Interfaith Service dedicated to our beloved United Nations and to your nobility-flooded leadership…Dear Secretary-General, you and the United Nations have been inseparably one for thirty years… Now you have become the tallest and most powerful wisdom-tree, sheltering all the countries, all the faiths, all the cultures and all the races…

Sri Chinmoy

Photograph

Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Sri Chinmoy greet each other at the start of the first Solemn Interfaith Service of Commitment to the Work of the United Nations, held at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York City on 25 April 1997. (UN/DPI photo by Eskinder Debebe)

Sri Chinmoy offers the opening invocation at the Interfaith Service in which twenty-five religious and spiritual leaders participated. The Secretary-General and Mrs. Nane Annan are standing in the centre near the flags.

15 January 19991

My most esteemed Secretary-General,

…Your words are so lucid and heartfelt. They are the perfect reflection of your own pure heart and sure vision for the future of humanity… You are among the galaxies of immortal peace-dreamers of our times. But I wish to say that what I treasure most in you is your childlike heart, your heart of gold, which is filled with love and compassion for each and every member of our oneness-world-family.

Sri Chinmoy


  1. KA 90. After having read "What Can I Do to Make Things Better?" in Parade Magazine.

Message from the Secretary-General — 18 April 2000

I wish to congratulate all present on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Peace Meditation at the United Nations. The practice spans three decades, crosses multiple frontiers and motivates many people. In this house dedicated to duty and debate in the service of peace, meditation serves the same cause in silence and in stillness. On this 30th anniversary, please accept my best wishes on behalf of the United Nations, along with the hope that the cause of peace will become a reality in the new millennium.

Kofi A. Annan

27 May 2000

Highly esteemed Secretary-General,

…The United Nations is so fortunate to have you as its world-pilot as it enters the New Millennium. Your own vast inner depths, your solitude-loving life, the quietness and gentleness that emanate from you, your sincerity and humility all bespeak a man whose words and actions are based on a deep and fulfilling inner life of peace and harmony. May you continue to serve the United Nations for many long years to come so that this World-Body, which is humanity's cherished dream, may carry the message of peace throughout the length and breadth of the world.

Sri Chinmoy

22 September 2000

Dear Sri Chinmoy,

…Let me also take this opportunity to express my appreciation for your 30 years of dedication to the United Nations. Through your prayers, meditations, concerts and global 'Peace Run', your work has linked peace-lovers in more than 100 countries and complemented that of the world Organization. I encourage you to continue in this creative and dynamic service.

Kofi A. Annan

29 June 2001

Highly esteemed Secretary-General,

I wish to congratulate you wholeheartedly on being unanimously appointed today by the General Assembly to your second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations. You have already achieved so many most remarkable and most significant things, not only for the betterment of the United Nations, but for the whole world… I am sure that this coming five years your wisdom-light will continue to illumine the darkness of this troubled world of ours.

Sri Chinmoy

15 September 2001

Highly esteemed Secretary-General,

On the thirteenth of September at the Interfaith Prayer Service, your supremely soulful Message was at once heart-breaking and soul-stirring. I am sure countless people in the world will derive immense consolation from your mind-illumining and heart-elevating Message… You do not only represent the World-Body, but also represent earth's Peace-Hope-Dream and Heaven's Peace-Promise-Reality here on earth.

Sri Chinmoy

Appreciation-admiration-gratitude-garlands offered to Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Mr. Vladimir Petrovsky

Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva,1993-2002
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, 1992-1993
Deputy Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, 1986-1991

29 March 2002

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, is one of the worlds most visionary and, at the same time, most democratic leaders. I have had the great opportunity of serving as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva under his leadership, and I can assure you that I have the highest personal regard for Kofi Annan.

The United Nations is open to all the people now, not only to governmental bodies, and this is one of the greatest contributions of the Secretary-General. He has brought the United Nations into the hearts and lives of the people, and also brought the people into the United Nations across all lines of religion and race. In so doing, the Secretary-General has achieved something very great for the world and something unprecedented in the history of democracy.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also brought a new and invaluable democratic style in running the major executive body of the United Nations — the Secretariat. It is a fresh and invigorating example for all the other bodies of the United Nations Organization, from Headquarters to the worldwide field offices.

Kofi Annan is a very noble man who gives to each person a great sense of dignity and also of participation in a cause which is far greater than the cause of any one individual. After all, we are all partners and allies in the struggle for the survival and progress of the human race.

In closing, I would like to offer the Secretary-General my great personal regards and respects, along with my fervent hopes for his continuing success in his pioneering works for the betterment of humankind.

H.E. Mr. Jacob Zuma

Deputy President of South Africa, 1999-present
Deputy President of the African National Congress, 1997-present

1 April 2002

It will be fitting to say we highly appreciate Mr. Kofi Annan's contribution as the Secretary-General of the United Nations at a time of the world's transition to becoming a real global village; at a time when humanity by and large speaks of democracy as the only way to handle the affairs of the world; at a time when the overwhelming majority of the human race accepts the question of human rights as the most noble element of human life; at a time when the issues of peace, security, stability and the need for economic growth to address the problems of the world are at the top of the agenda.

Given all of this, Kofi Annan is indeed, more than any other Secretary-General of the United Nations, the one who is leading the UN at a time when it is able to touch the lives of every citizen of the globe. We hope and trust that God will give him the energy, the power and the capacity to succeed in doing his all-important work for the overwhelming majority of people and particularly for the poor in the world.

It is with this in mind that we would like to pay tribute to the Secretary-General as the leader of such an important organization and to acknowledge the considerable contributions he has already made. It is true that many are born, but few are chosen to play specific critical roles in society. He is certainly among these rare and noble individuals.

Prof. Ibrahim Gambari

United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa, 1999-present
Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, 1990-1999

21 March 2002

I have known Mr. Kofi Annan for over twelve years starting with the period when I served as Ambassador of Nigeria to the United Nations and he was Assistant Secretary-General at the Department of Peace-Keeping Operations and subsequently Secretary-General of the Organization. Since the last two years, I have also been privileged to serve as his Special Adviser on Africa and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. From these vantage points, I can say, without any equivocation, that Mr. Kofi Annan is an outstanding international civil servant, a great Secretary-General (whose qualities have been recognized by many, including the Nobel Prize Committee, which awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 2001 to be shared with the United Nations Organization) and, above all, a wonderful human being. It is a great honour and unique privilege to serve the United Nations under his exemplary leadership."

Sri Chinmoy: As my highly esteemed friend, Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari, so proudly and wisely told me, Secretary-General Kofi Annan is a perfect stranger to anger. Forgiveness is his forte.

Mr. Shashi Tharoor1

THE MAN WHO WON THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

When the call came from an excited colleague at 4:58 AM, New York time, on Friday, October 12, telling me that my organization, the United Nations, and my boss, Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, had won the Nobel Prize for Peace, I had been lying awake for nearly an hour. It was a call 1 had been expecting, indeed hoping for; but for three years now we had heard the same rumors, and twice they had proved untrue. So it was in a mixture of anticipation and dread that I tossed and turned that night.

Kofi A. Annan himself, typically, had no such anxieties. He was sleeping soundly, untroubled by the prospect of either triumph or disappointment, when his spokesman, Fred Eckhard, woke him with the news. "Given the sort of business we are in," the Secretary-General later remarked, "usually when you get a call that early in the morning, it's something disastrous."

But this prize was "a wonderful way to wake up," recognizing the United Nations work and giving him, and the men and women he leads, encouragement for the future.

Though, as the UN's head of public information, I am hardly an impartial observer, I could not resist the editor's invitation to express a personal view in this space. It is not every day that one finds oneself directly touched by an event of this magnitude — the grant of the world's most famous prize. A senior colleague said to me that morning that, "The United Nations could not have won without Kofi A. Annan, and Kofi A. Annan could not have won without the United Nations." My own comment to the Secretary-General was less even-handed: "It was you," I said to him, "who brought the UN to the point where we were worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize."

There is no doubt that the prize recognizes the work of the thousands of unsung United Nations staff striving anonymously behind the headlines — bearing the brunt of the outflow of Afghan refugees, waging the long and thankless battle to overcome poverty in Africa, fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS and other killer diseases, patrolling the frontlines in 16 peace-keeping operations around the world. But it is also a tribute to the way that the United Nations, under this remarkable Secretary-General, has become the one indispensable global organization in our globalizing world.

The Nobel Committee itself recognized this in its citation, proclaiming "that the only negotiable route to global peace and cooperation goes by way of the United Nations."

The man who has brought the United Nations to this point — and who, in a Scandinavian poll this summer, ranked as the world's most admired statesman, with more than double the popularity of his nearest rival, British Prime Minister Tony Blair — is unusual, first of all, for being the first to climb the ranks of the organization from its lowest professional level to the very top. When Kofi A. Annan became Secretary-General of the United Nations at the beginning of 1997, he had not been a world figure like some previous contenders for the post; those who make it their business to follow the United Nations knew his resume but not his biography. Of his popularity with the staff there was no doubt: the jubilation in the corridors and offices of the United Nations Secretariat five years ago, when the news of his election was first announced, had to be seen to be believed. For UN officials beleaguered by ill-informed criticism and beset by financial crisis, anxious about the polemics surrounding the defenestration of the previous Secretary-General and crushed by the rapidity with which the post-cold-war euphoria about a "new world order" had soured, the ascent of a man who knew their problems and their strengths was a shot in the arm.

But it is not the fact that he is an insider, nor even that he has worked for the United Nations in both Headquarters and the field, not even that he has served in a remarkable range of areas (budget, personnel, refugees, peace-keeping), that explains the continued exhilaration at the UN at his election earlier this year to a second term, or the screaming, weeping, cheering throng that greeted him as he entered the Secretariat building after learning of this year's Nobel Prize. It is something altogether simpler. Kofi A. Annan possesses that rare ingredient not always found in successful men: he is a wonderful human being.

Born into a family of traditional chiefs of the Fante tribe in Ghana, Kofi A. Annan grew up in Ghana, where he became a student leader of note. A scholarship brought him to college in the US (and later in Geneva) and, unusually for a bureaucrat, he took a degree in management from MIT. More important, as those who have worked with him will tell you, he has a Ph.D. in people. He takes the trouble to relate to others — young or old, senior or junior, ambassador or security guard. He listens; he is patient; he always has time for an enquiry about your family or some trifling personal circumstance in your life. (The same morning that he had learned the news of the Nobel Prize, an accolade that had elevated his stature even higher into the rare stratum of the world's superstar celebrities, he found the time to ask me how my son's college applications were going.)

Time after time I have seen visitors leave his presence overwhelmed by his warmth.

As a result, his personal qualities are widely seen as the key to his professional success. Even the most trenchant critics of the United Nations under Boutros-Ghali exempted him from their criticism, When Muhamed Sacirbey, the Bosnian Ambassador to the UN, was asked why, after all his attacks on the UN's role in his country, he still praised Kofi A. Annan, who was head of peace-keeping through that time, Sacirbey replied simply: "Because he is honest."

UN officials know him as a boss who extends trust and loyalty, who stands up for his staff, gives them credit for their accomplishments and takes full responsibility for their mistakes. He is a man of rare wisdom, one whose advice and judgement have always been respected by his peers as well as his subordinates. He has a gift for management that goes well beyond anything that can be learned at business school. He picks his collaborators well and gets the best out of them, unfailingly helping people to fulfil a potential they might not even have realized they possessed. He is a man of principle who does not hesitate to express his convictions. His firm determination to "put the individual human being at the center of everything the United Nations does," and his willingness to challenge the dogma of sovereignty when it is used as a shield for abuses by governments, have marked his tenure in office.

Above all, he has an extraordinary inner calm. No one has seen him angry, depressed, excited or in a panic. I once compared him to an Indian yogi — a human being who seems to walk on a different plane, with a strong, still center to him in which he is deeply anchored and from which he faces pressure and pleasure with absolute confidence that neither can overcome him.

A record-breaking sprinter in his youth — his collegiate mark in the 60-yard dash stood for decades — Kofi A. Annan has revealed, in his first term, the tirelessness, stamina and patience of a long-distance runner. Throughout the ups and downs of the United Nations efforts to cope with the new world disorder in recent years, from the carnage in East Timor to the global response to terrorism, he has stayed strong, serene and focused.

The world will need these qualities as the United Nations embarks upon the challenges of the 21st century. The future of the world organization has not, for many years, looked as promising as it does now, in a planet transformed by globalization, instant communications and the random menace of terrorism,

Kofi A. Annan has often spoken of those "problems without passports" — poverty, conflict, refugees, the environment, drug trafficking and now terrorism — which are beyond the power of any one country, however powerful, to solve on its own.

How the United Nations will respond to these challenges — or, more to the point, be allowed by its member states to respond — is uncertain. What is certain, though, is that as it does so, it will be led by a man of integrity, humanity and deep personal strength.


  1. KA 94e5. Interim Head, UN Department of Public Information. This article appeared in The Earth TimesConference News Daily/, 31 October 2001.

H.E. Dr. Anwarul Karim Chowdhury

High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, 1996-2001
President of the Security Council, March 2000 and June 2001/

1 April 2002

The Secretary-General has given humankind hope and purpose to strive very hard for peace and for meaningful lives. Many more years of his enlightened leadership will take us closer to these noble goals.

Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra

Director, United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, Jakarta Office, 2000-present
Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cambodia, 1997-2000
Served as Ambassador of India to the USSR, Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and other nations

1 April 2002

I feel deeply honoured to join in a tribute to His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on his birthday anniversary.

Mr. Kofi Annan conferred on me the privilege of working as his Personal Representative in Cambodia from 1997 to 2000. Subsequently, I have been asked to continue as the Head of the UN's office in Jakarta under the aegis of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor. I have, therefore, had the opportunity of meeting the Secretary-General a few times during the last five years. Every time it has been an encounter with greatness.

When I arrived in Cambodia in July 1997, guns were booming for control of the Pochentang airport, and the city of Phnom Penh itself, by the military arms of political parties locked in combat.

The streets were totally deserted except for men in arms, shops were closed, school-going children were all confined to home, political leaders were fleeing the land, the National Assembly was closed and the lives of people were enveloped in fear all around. The UN Secretary-General's mandate to his personal representative was clear and unambiguous. Cambodia must return to the path of peace and democracy, for which the UN had worked so hard for a decade. His messages to His Majesty King Sihanouk, then in Beijing, to Prince Ranariddh in Paris and to Mr. Hun Sen in Phnom Penh were pregnant with deep concern for the people of Cambodia, who he thought had suffered enough and must not suffer more.

Mr. Kofi Annan personally kept himself very close to developments in Cambodia until peace was restored, political leaders were persuaded to return to Cambodia in safety and freedom, elections were held again for a new National Assembly and a government representing the will of the people formed. During the elections, he called upon the people of Cambodia to vote freely and fearlessly, and the King joined the Secretary-General in appealing to them to return to the polls in large numbers. In the event, 90 per cent of them did.

Every time I met Mr. Kofi Annan, I saw his eyes laden with that pain of the suffering humanity. No wonder he has made reduction of their poverty the theme of his life and the care for the rights of women and children his clarion call. He places his heart wherever there is poverty and suffering and senseless conflict.

For the large masses of humanity living in misery and poverty, he is all the time seeking freedom from want, freedom from disease, freedom from fear and freedom from conflict, as his Millennium Report so eloquently bears out.

While his heart is full of boundless compassion, Mr. Kofi Annan has a frame of steel. Even in seemingly hopeless situations, he never gives up hope and moves across the globe in search of solutions from one arena of conflict, devastation and death to another almost tirelessly. Underneath his bonhomie and diplomatic finesse, one also notices in the Secretary-General a sure capacity to take stern decisions and to drive his point home in conflictual situations. Here is a visionary with his feet firmly fixed on the ground.

We all felt elated when Mr. Kofi Annan won the Nobel Prize, but he took it with due humility, characteristic of him, and then passed the credit for his achievements and for the enormous effort behind to his associates and colleagues in the United Nations, who shared the honour with him. All this makes him bear his heavy mantle lightly.

As a colleague and an associate, I convey to the UN Secretary-General our hearty greetings and our wish for many happy returns of the day.

H.E. Dr. Jorge Illueca

President of the Thirty-Eighth Session of the United Nations General Assembly President of Panama, 1984
Vice President of Panama, 1982-1984

5 April 2002

Kofi Annan, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, vested as he is with de jure and sometimes de facto responsibilities, is performing his political and diplomatic duties in the best interests of the World Organization. His ability to harmonize the competence of the General Assembly and of the Security Council has been of extraordinary value to promote the coherence of the actions of the United Nations bodies.

The peoples that support the principles and purposes of the United Nations realize how important his functions are — not only those based on a mandate entrusted to him either by the General Assembly or the Security Council, but also the diplomatic endeavors taken on his own initiative.

I interpret the feelings of many human beings in Latin America and the Caribbean in paying tribute to Kofi Annan's individual vision and energy. Mr. Annan has guided the administrative side of the Organization on a steady course through the tumultuous atmosphere of the 21st Century. He deserves the recognition, the admiration and the gratitude of the peoples of the United Nations.

H.E. Mr. Imre Hollai

President of the Thirty-Seventh Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary, 1970-1974, 1980-1984

19 March 2002

I look at Mr. Kofi Annan with great respect for all the great things which he has done and which he is going to do as Secretary-General. My very, very best wishes are with him.

The Very Reverend James Parks Morton

President, The Interfaith Center of New York
Dean Emeritus, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine

30 March 2002

We are fortunate to have a Secretary-General of tremendous integrity, insight and courage in a world where all too often 'negotiation' only means the humiliation of one's adversary. His quiet, dignified, perseverant diplomacy is not only effective, it is exemplary of what the United Nations can and must be. It is time to stand with the peacemakers and follow with both caution and strength every promising path away from violence and confrontation. It is a time to walk with the UN leader.

The gratitude of the international interfaith community to Secretary-General Kofi Annan is immense and our affirmation of his exhibited skill and courage is profound.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.

Mr. Brian Gleeson

Senior Adviser to the Administrator, UNDP

26 March 2002

I was working at the United Nations in New York on secondment from the Australian Government when Mr. Kofi Annan was elected for his first term as Secretary-General. I was a member of the Management Reform Group, which was involved in the preparation of a number of his first reform strategy papers.

Having worked in the public sector for over thirty years in the Australian Government, working closely with Ministers and Prime Ministers, and having been involved in a number of international activities, I can honestly say that there has been no one that has received such tumultuous and widespread support as Mr. Annan received when he was elected Secretary-General. His first visit back to the UN building was an emotional and uplifting experience for all UN staff members — he was a Secretary-General who was once one of them. The Secretary-General continues to be an inspiration, a leader through results, a role model for others to aspire to and a peace broker in whom we have our trust and hope.

H.E. Mr. Lamuel Stanislaus

Permanent Representative of Grenada to the United Nations

2 April 2002

The Permanent Mission of Grenada to the United Nations greets, salutes and congratulates the Secretary-General of the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, and thanks him for the remarkable work he is doing on behalf of the Organization and the international community.

The Secretary-General leads more by persuasion than by preachment and has the ability to conceptualise and to manage policy. Thus he conceived and executed the Millennium Summit, out of which came the masterpiece — The Millennium Declaration, a road map for global progress.

He blends, in a most delightful way, scholar, statesman, diplomat and administrator.

Mr. Secretary-General, Ad Multos Annos!

H.E. Mr. Bob F. Jalang'o

Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations

31 March 2002

Mr. Kofi Annan is one of Africa's greatest sons, whose commitment in the new millennium has been to work tirelessly towards the achievement of world peace; to mobilize international resources for the reduction of abject poverty in the developing countries, and to support global initiatives to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr. Annan's quiet diplomacy has not only earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, but has had an inspirational effect on and gained respect and recognition from world leaders and the general populace.

Nana Osei Boaky Yiadom II (Mrs. Nana Apeadu)

Amanonehene of Akuapem, Chief of Adamorobe, Ghana
Aburi-Akuapem, Patron of Okuapemman Fekuw USA, Inc.

25 March 2002

It is an honour for me to say something about Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General. Our first meeting was in the 1960s in Addis Ababa, where my late husband K. K. Apeadu was on assignment with the Economic Commission for Africa. Kofi was a bright young professional and just beginning his career with the United Nations. My husband commented even then that he was a young man with a vision. The Ghanaian community was very close and we would all meet regularly at get-togethers and parties. A generous spirit, Kofi was always present with his sense of humour and soft-spoken nature.

Later in the 1980s and 90s, after my husband had been lost in the line of duty in a plane crash, I met Kofi again at UN Headquarters in New York where Kofi headed Peace-Keeping Operations. As I was the chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee for UN Family Rights, looking after the rights of the UN spouses, Kofi would take time to meet with me over spousal concerns. Despite his crowded schedule, he always had time for this sensitive issue.

Kofi's hallmark is that of modesty, perseverance and above all, humility. Every Ghanaian child is given a 'soul' name of the day that he or she is born. In the Akans language, Kofi means Friday. But I wish to add to Kofi the honorific Odehye, the Akans epithet for 'royal born'.

May I take this opportunity to say Ayekoo, which means 'congratulations', and to say that Ghana is most proud. As a nation, Ghana recognizes Mr. Annan's contribution to the world body. And in taking pride in their son, the Kofi Annan International Centre and the Kofi Annan Cup for soccer have been established. Whenever I hear Kofi Annan's name, I myself feel extremely proud.

Jesse Owens: Supreme Olympic Champion | Kofi Annan: World-Harmony-Leader

Upon receiving the Jesse Owens Global Award for Peace, the Secretary-General said:

…It is therefore with particular pride that I join you in honouring Jesse Owens tonight. To live is to choose. And if life is choices, then Jesse Owens' life is an extraordinary example of what it is all about.

If there are any characteristics I try to summon up in the most important moments of my job, it is those of concentration, inner calm and respect for my adversaries. For most of us, all three are essential in going the distance and in staying on track. And so, as one of those inspired by Jesse's example on and off the track, I am moved more than I can say by the honour you have bestowed on me tonight…

Photograph

Secretary-General Kofi Annan receives the prestigious Jesse Owens Global Award for Peace on 11 February 1999 in New York, (un/dpi photo by EVAN SCHNEIDER)

Letter to Kofi Annan1

12 February 1999

Highly esteemed Secretary-General,

I wish to congratulate you from the very depths of my heart on receiving the prestigious Jesse Owens Global Award for Peace. I know that you were an excellent sprinter in college, and 1 am sure that this has offered you a unique and significant preparation for your current service as a supremely chosen sprinter for peace…

Sri Chinmoy


  1. KA 95. Excerpt from a letter written by Sri Chinmoy to the Secretary-General upon hearing about his receiving the Jesse Owens Global Award for Peace:

Sri Chinmoy and Jesse Owens1

Sri Chinmoy: Once upon a time, I happened to be an insignificant athlete. But you are the world-renowned, immortal Jesse Owens, and my admiration for you, right from my adolescent years, has remained pure and unalloyed.

Jesse Owens: … I think that if one has love and feeling, then everything can come about. It takes a lot of dedication to be able to live it… What I want to do, first of all, is please my God. Then I want to please the people who helped me… Everybody is struggling to get on top of the mountain. But you have got to remember one thing when you reach the top: you have got to come back to the valley to keep in contact with what's going on down in the valley.


  1. KA 96. Jesse Owens was Sri Chinmoy's idol when he was a champion sprinter in India. They met on 4 November 1972 at the Park Lane Hotel in New York City. Following is an excerpt from their conversation, which lasted for two hours.

Photograph

Sri Chinmoy with Jesse Owens, 4 November 1972, New York City.

Photograph

Secretary-General Kofi Annan was a champion sprinter in his youth. His record-setting time for the 60-yard dash, which he set while running for Macalester College, stood for decades, (un/dpi photo)

To our greatest joy and pride,
In the world of world-harmony-dream,
Our beloved Secretary-General
Is running the fastest.

Photograph

Sri Chinmoy, champion sprinter in India, 1958. His time was 11.7 seconds for 100 metres.

Editor's note

Peace-bird drawings by Sri Chinmoy.