World leaders – both past and present are honoring the life of former United Nations Secretary-Genera Kofi Annan. Annan died on Saturday at the age of 80. Annan was the U.N’s first black Secretary-General, and he spent 10 years in the position. During that time, Annan received the Nobel Peace Prize and built a reputation as one of the world’s most beloved diplomats despite being at the helm during a time that was largely marked by wars and terrorism. His death has sent shockwaves through the global political community, prompting world leaders to issue tributes. Flags outside of the U.N. headquarters will fly at half-mast for the next three days.
But is that enough to pay tribute to such an incredible figure? It’s a sign of respect and certainly does mean something, but Kofi Annan did some incredible things during his career. One of his greatest achievement includes the Millennium Development Goals, which set global targets on issues such as child mortality and poverty. Before Annan, there was no such thing as these kinds of targets. The current UN Chief, Antonio Guterres described Annan as a “guiding force for good”. Barack Obama described him as a man who always pursued “a better world”.
While it would be easy for me to provide you with a list of his accomplishments and how he changed the world for so many, I think the real value is understanding how the world saw him. Not to get too morbid, but when we think about our death, it’s always in relation to how we lived our lives. Did we pursue the goals that we wanted? Were we able to make a difference in someone’s life? How giving were we? So when I read what the world has to say about Annan, my heart is both warmed and broken at the same time.
What do other leaders have to say about a man who changed the world?
Antonio Guterres, U.N Chief
“Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good. I join the world in mourning his loss. In these turbulent and trying times, his legacy as a global champion for peace will remain a true inspiration for us all.”
Teresa May, Britain’s Prime Minister
“Sad to hear of the death of Kofi Annan. A great leader and reformer of the UN, he made a huge contribution to making the world he has left a better place than the one he was born into. My thoughts and condolences are with his family.”
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister
“Kofi Annan didn’t just talk about building a more just and peaceful world, he dedicated his life to doing it – and the world is a better place because of him. It’s now up to all of us to carry his work forward.”
Barack Obama, Former President of the United States
“His integrity, persistence, optimism, and sense of our common humanity always informed his outreach to the community of nations. Long after he had broken barriers, Kofi never stopped his pursuit of a better world and made time to motivate and inspire the next generation of leaders. Michelle and I offer our condolences to his family and many loved ones.”
These are the kinds of words that we all want to be said about ourselves after we are gone. The question is, will someone say them? They are all true words about Kofi Annan. This week, we’ve lost to legends, and the world just won’t be the same without them in it.