Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon outlined a compelling vision for nuclear disarmament at the weekend. Speaking on the eve of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations Ban K-Moon identified a five-point action plan needed to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
He delivered his speech at the renowned Riverside Church in Harlem, New York. His lofty ambitions are matched by the Riverside Church whose bell tower is the tallest in the United States. But lofty ambitions aside Secretary-General Moon made good use of the Riverside’s historical background; skillfully weaving in the speaking precedents of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela into his introduction.
His successful introduction was capped with an excellent reference to his audience:
“I can see what they saw: a sea of committed women and men who come from all corners of the world.”
His speech included good references to his own personal background. An early education that was affected by the legacy of war in Korea and an enthusiasm for the United Nations based on the UN’s role there. Further references to the Reykjavik Summit of 1986 and the roles of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev were also weaved into his narrative.
His speaking style is elegant but not flowery. Rhetorical questions featured well in this speech:
“How long must we wait to rid ourselves of this threat?”
Contrasting positions are also used to good effect. For instance:
“After independence in 1991, Kazakhstan closed the site and banished nuclear weapons from its territory. Today, Semipalatinsk is a powerful symbol of hope.”
He had a stab at a workable phrase reversal with repetition:
“People who understand that the world is over-armed and that peace is under-funded. People who understand that the time for change is now.”
That last line of course is a firm favourite of President Obama’s speeches, and with the historical Civil Rights legacy of the Riverside Church it was a well received line.
This proved to be an engaging speech by the World’s top diplomat. Not hectoring. But passionate. The last word is his:
“What I see on the horizon is a world free of nuclear weapons. What I see before me are the people who will make this happen.”