Gillian Sorensen, a senior adviser at the United Nations Foundation, spoke about the importance of the UN at the Ohio Union on Monday afternoon.
“I’m a UN person,” Sorensen said. “I have this in my blood. I spent just about my entire adult career working with and for the UN.”
Sorensen served as UN assistant secretary-general for external relations from 1997 to 2003 under Secretary-General Kofi Annan. From 1993 to 1996 she was a special adviser for public policy at the UN under Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
Sorensen’s speech focused on the many components that make up the UN, including peace keeping, development, disarmament, humanitarian relief for 20 million refugees a year, environmental actions and world health.
“Most Americans have no idea of the breadth and the depth of (the UN) agenda,” Sorensen said. “You can go all the way through high school and college without learning a thing about the UN.”
Sorensen, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native, said she would like to see American children learn more about the UN in school and presented the Canadian system as an example.
“The Canadians have a UN component in their teaching every year from sixth grade on. It may just be one or two days, but they talk about what the UN does, how it works; they talk about Canada and the UN, and they are proud of it. I think we should be too,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen travels across America giving speeches about the UN. Sigma Iota Rho Honor Society for International Studies organized her visit to campus.
“We are lucky to have someone, such an illustrious speaker, come speak on Ohio State’s campus,” said David Agranovich, president of Sigma Iota Rho. “The international studies community deserves the opportunity to connect their students with professionals in the field. … There are a lot of people in the audience here who want to work in the UN.”
Students outside the international studies community also said they appreciated Sorensen’s speech.
“It was quite enlightening,” said Danniyal Ahmed, a second-year in economics. “It’s a great opportunity that we get at OSU when a speaker of such magnitude comes with so much experience.”
Gillian spoke for about 30 minutes and then took questions from the audience for another 30 minutes. About 25 people attended the event, most of whom were students.
“I thought the speech was amazing; she really touched on a lot of the points that I think were of interest to people in the audience,” Agranovich said. “Her perspective on the issue is really the kind you only come across every once in awhile. She’s truly a special speaker to have on campus.”
Sorensen’s husband of 41 years, Ted Sorensen, was an adviser and speech writer for President John F. Kennedy. Ted suffered a stroke and died in October at the age of 82.
“(The UN) is important because it affects our lives; it affects our lives in very direct ways,” Sorensen said. “It helps us cooperate on a lot of things that need doing, but we can’t do alone and shouldn’t do alone.”