Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 24, 2021
Hello, everyone, and happy UN Day!
Thank you so much, Bob, for that kind introduction and for this great honor. And thank you to the Michigan State University International Studies Program and the United Nations Association Greater Lansing Chapter for co-sponsoring tonight’s UN Day Dinner.
This award is named for Senator Arthur Vandenberg, whom I know Bob told you a little about. I was struck by something in particular about Vandenberg’s career – that, as he learned more, he changed his mind. He went from being a staunch isolationist toward helping found the United Nations. In perhaps his most famous Senate floor speech, he laid out the case for the UN following World War II. “There are two ways to do it,” he said. “One way is by exclusive individual action in which each of us tries to look out for himself.”
“The other way,” Vandenberg said, “is by joint action in which we undertake to look out for each other.”
With the help of UNA-USA, we chose the latter and the UN was formed. Since then, there have been fewer large-scale conflicts than at any point in history. We have prevented nuclear war, enshrined human rights protections, provided lifesaving humanitarian aid, and worked to improve the lives of people around the world. Through all of it, UNA-USA was there.
Now, you continue to promote and protect the value of our diplomacy at the United Nations and help further our goals of advancing peace, prosperity, and security. Today, on UN Day, we pause to celebrate our collective achievements and consider how we can shape the UN to be a better version of itself. We must prepare ourselves to face some of the starkest challenges in UN history, from ending COVID-19 to combating climate change.
I know UNA-USA will be there, as you have before, to educate, inspire, and advocate. And I know this because the two options Vandenberg laid out are not just true of global powers: They are true for all of us. We can either try to go it alone or we can work together and look out for each other.
I am grateful to know we are not in this alone – that we have all the members of this chapter, and so many across the country, working alongside us to build a blueprint for a better future. So, thank you so much for this award and for everything you do.