When Kofi Annan agreed to be the keynote speaker at the Global Citizen Forum in Monaco in 2015, it was a pivotal moment that fuelled my philanthropic journey.
It is known, that many of one’s heroes tend to disappoint when you finally meet them in person. This was not the case with Kofi Annan. The first black African to become Secretary General of the United Nations, did not only charm the world with his vision and his wisdom, but humbled them with his devotion and compassion.
As one might expect, he gave a remarkable address on Europe’s refugee crisis during the Global Citizen Forum, but also demonstrated understanding and thorough patience with the tough questions he received from a couple of university students who had been invited to attend. It was this patience, along with a lifelong of dedication, that has become the legacy he leaves us with today.
The news of his death on Saturday, August 18th, has deeply saddened us all. As the Global Citizen Forum planned on expanding into Africa; Kofi – as he insisted we call him – would have been at the very top of our honorary list. As news of his death has spread, many are paying tribute to a man who not only became a global figure for empowerment, but a devoted global citizen fighting for unity, dignity, and peace, in all four corners of the world.
His legacy will be felt wherever people believe in humanity’s essential good and the continuing need for dialogue over aggression.
Carl Bildt, co-chairman of the European council on Foreign Relations and former Swedish Prime Minister, described Annan as “a man of courage, wisdom and friendship” and urged people to read his 2001 Nobel Peace Prize lecture. I couldn’t agree more, though his wise words in Monaco come a close second.
Our thoughts go out to his family, and everyone who worked at the Kofi Annan Foundation. We can best honour his life by carrying on the work he began when he joined the United Nations in 1962, and continued to his end.
The world that I am working to create, is a world that should be of interest to all of us – Kofi Annan