March 2, 2018
By Sarah Hopkins
They say New York City is the city that never sleeps, and over 1,500 grassroots change-makers from across the nation joined forces on February 23 at UN Headquarters in New York City for UNA-USA’s Global Engagement Summit to prove it.
It’s no secret there is division in our country and in Washington right now, but you would never know it by looking out at the attendees of all ages, races, genders, and political affiliations brought together by one common cause: to tell the world that the U.S. stands with the UN.
These 10 moments from the 2018 Global Engagement Summit are a reflection of the day’s magnitude.
1. It was the largest-ever gathering of Americans showing up to support the United Nations at UN Headquarters.We’re still awed and impressed by the over 1,500 diverse UN advocates that came together to stand up and speak up for the UN together, filling nearly every seat in the General Assembly Hall.
2. UN leaders delivered powerful messages about the UN’s vital role in our world and how we can take action to stand with the United Nations.
We were wowed by Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed; President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák; and Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations Ambassador Kelley Eckles Currie. They presented inspiring messages on how Americans are uniquely positioned to make a difference at the UN. “To overcome challenges, we must not only witness, we must act,” said Her Excellency Amina Mohammed, and UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák reinforced the shared commitment to teamwork that shaped the United Nations in the first place: “No single country can act on these issues alone. We have to be united.”
3. Students from over 120 colleges and universities traveled to UN Headquarters in order to be a part of this historic moment.In fact, 40% of the Summit’s attendees were under the age of 25! Following the Summit, over 50 students participated in a UNA-USA chapter leadership training workshop, over half of whom have pledged to start new UNA chapters on their campuses.
4. We celebrated Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy and historic leadership with UNA-USA.As the founding UNA-USA chairwoman, Eleanor Roosevelt is a big deal in our world. We donated all of the profits generated from Global Engagement Summit ticket sales to restoring a UN monument in honor of her legacy and tireless work.
Perrin Ireland, great-granddaughter of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, poses with Eleanor Roosevelt cut-out.
5. We kicked-off our celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).In addition to her role as a UNA-USA leader and trailblazer, Eleanor Roosevelt also chaired the UDHR drafting committee and was integral to its adoption. During our Closing Assembly, we were honored to have Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt’s great-granddaughter Perrin Ireland address the audience. She defined the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the unfinished ethical agenda of Eleanor’s time. “From what I’ve heard today, this room is full of people uniquely positioned to engage with this ethical agenda and put it more deeply into action,” she said. We also had a panel all about standing up for human rights. Stay tuned for more in the coming months about our celebrations.
6. Chef, TV personality, former refugee, and UNA-USA Adopt-A-Future champion Lidia Bastianich told us her story, and why she’s taking action to provide education to young refugees.Lidia also presented UNA-USA’s Adopt-A-Future champion award to the UNA-USA Northern California Division for their incredible success in raising $30,000 in 2017 to ensure refugee children in Kenya are able to attend school and build a foundation for future opportunities and success.
Learn how you can join Lidia and many others by hosting a dinner to support refugee youth education >>
7. Cross-generational friendships were formed among attendees who connected on a common belief that our interests, values, and hopes for a better world can only be advanced through global engagement.
8. We gained a unique variety of insights on global issues from expert panelists, and came home with new ideas and objectives to create change that starts in our communities.We heard from passionate activists on topics such as climate change, the global refugee crisis, and how corporations play a major role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
9. Our closing plenary ended on a high note: A young attendee asked Professor Jeffrey Sachs a powerful question that elicited a standing ovation in the General Assembly Hall.We were awed by one of our youngest-ever attendees who reminded everyone they have a voice in this fight, but we need to commit to taking action. “I’m here at the UN because I love this place,” Professor Sachs, Director of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network answered to the audience, “but I’m here with you because I really want you to take control of your future.”
10. Attendees sent over 1,400 messages in under 30 minutes to their Members of Congress.We couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to the event when the UNA-USA network present came together in full-force to tell our leaders on Capitol Hill that we support a strong, prosperous U.S.-UN partnership and we want our country to continue to play a valuable role at the UN.
As UNA-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley stated, “the fate of our greatest fears and our highest aspirations is dependent on our country taking its seat at the table.” And on February 23, 2018, we all pulled up a chair.
Now what? Let’s not let the momentum fade just because the 2018 Global Engagement Summit is over! You can still send a message to your Member of Congress and let them know how you feel.
And even more good news: you can now register for the 2018 UNA-USA Leadership Summit, slated for June 10-12, 2018 in Washington, DC.
And last but certainly not least: THANK YOU! Whether you were able to attend in-person or followed along online or are just reading this post, we can’t do any of us this without you and your support for the UN. Virtual high-five.