U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
July 10, 2023
President Brandel, thank you for that warm introduction and for inviting me to speak to all of you. Lions and Leos, it is such a pleasure to be here.
Congratulations on the amazing attendance at this convention. I heard there might be 11,000 people here. That’s a testimony to this great organization’s commitment to service. It also gives me some bragging rights. You see, we have five U.S. ambassadors at the UN, and except for a few commencement ceremonies, this might be the largest group any of us has ever addressed.
Today, I’d like to talk about what President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken call “foreign policy for the middle class.” What that means is ensuring that U.S. foreign policy creates a more secure America at home, expands economic opportunity for our families, and tackles the global crises that will shape our futures. Under the Biden Administration, a critical instrument of our foreign policy is the work we do at the United Nations.
Over the past quarter century, we’ve seen how terror and diseases that start elsewhere cross our borders and affect our everyday lives. We’ve watched globalization make goods cheaper for U.S. consumers but also shift jobs overseas. And we’ve seen how the global phenomenon of climate change is creating extreme weather throughout our country.
Or take the cross-border challenge of synthetic drugs like fentanyl, which are having a devastating toll on our country. A drug that few people had heard of five years ago now claims the lives of 70,000 Americans each year. Because this drug is made from ingredients that come from abroad, this can’t be just a local health and police issue. It also requires an international solution.
Today, we are more connected to the rest of the world than we have ever been, so we don’t have the luxury of stepping back from the global stage. That’s why the work the United States does at the UN matters. Under the leadership of Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the bread and butter of what we do every day affects all of you, whether it’s forming coalitions, debating and negotiating deals, calling out persecution and injustice, or standing up against Russia’s unjustified aggression in Ukraine.
Throughout history, American leadership has been critical to the success of the UN. Presidents Roosevelt and Truman were the driving forces behind the creation of the United Nations in 1945. Three years later, Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Today, the U.S. is the largest financial contributor to the United Nations, and U.S. diplomats fight every day in New York, Geneva, and other UN locations to protect this institution and its values.
I’ll be the first to admit that the UN is an imperfect institution, but the world is an imperfect place. However, the work of the UN is critical to maintaining peace and security, lifting people out of poverty, and providing humanitarian assistance in areas devastated by conflict and natural disasters. The United States can’t tackle these problems on our own. That’s where the UN comes in. It’s a forum for collective action. It allows us to mobilize other countries to do their part – to give more and to do more to tackle the issues of our time.
Every day, the U.S. leads by the power of our example.
Three and a half years ago, few Americans understood the power of pandemics to transform our lives. The U.S. has worked with UN organizations to lead the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have donated 1.2 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine – far more than any other country. With COVID now in the rear-view mirror, we continue to work with our global partners to better prevent, detect and respond to the next infectious disease threat. That’s what leadership looks like.
Let’s talk about climate change. Last week, we saw the three hottest days on Earth in 125,000 years. That’s why it matters that the U.S. has rejoined the Paris climate change agreement and is making historic investments to reduce our carbon emissions. These efforts will prevent catastrophic weather events like floods and droughts that threaten lives in the developing world, create conflict and instability, and cause mass migration.
Our work to address global issues like pandemics and climate change are just some of the ways that we’re coordinating with our partners at the UN to improve the future for all Americans.
As we tackle these problems, the voice of Lions and Leos will be critical, especially in the next few years.
Your organization has been immersed in the United Nations since 1945, when Lions helped draft an important part of the UN Charter. You regularly send Lions and Leos to work with UN offices, and the Lions Club will host its annual United Nations Day programming in March – for the 46th year in a row.
The Lions Club has prioritized the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and sponsors projects around the world to promote clean energy through solar power, ensure access to clean water, and address food insecurity at home and abroad. Later this afternoon, I’ll be meeting with a group of your leaders to talk about what more the Lions Club can do to help us achieve these goals by the end of the decade.
If you’re not already involved in the Lions Club’s work at the UN, I encourage you to do so. If you’re already involved, double down. Educate yourself about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and take action. We need your help and, I promise, you will also find it to be some of the most fulfilling work that you do.
Let’s work together to advance peace and prosperity here at home and around the world. As President Biden has said: “We’re the United States of America. And there’s nothing beyond our capacity if we do it together.”