Listening, But Not Always Liking

September 26, 2007
Protest at the United Nations

Greetings from sunny New York—home to the 62nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). I arrived last Sunday, September 23rd in advance of the Monday kickoff. It’s been an interesting four days in the city, to say the least. So many sites. So many sounds. So many security checkpoints to get in innocent New Yorkers’ way (most have been amenable to the delays; others just roll their eyes and stomp their feet in disgust at “this stupid UNGA thing.”). It’s a nonstop spectacle of foreign dignitaries—all with their respective agendas, entourages, and motorcades to clog an already busy Manhattan.

So, here I am in the city that never sleeps – wait, isn’t that Las Vegas? Here I am in the city that never stops negotiating. From Wall Street to the General Assembly, there’s always a deal waiting to be struck. This is the time of year when the world’s governmental bodies come to the Big Apple, the United Nations Headquarters specifically, to talk about global issues like environmental concerns, international sanctions, poverty and war. Not only are they here to talk, they’re also here to be seen. I’ve never witnessed so many impeccably dressed people in one place. The Europeans walk through the lobby of our home for the week, the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, in their grays and blacks. The Americans in their shiny lapel pins, power suits, and blackberries. The Africans in their colorful garbs and stylish headdresses. The Middle Easterners in their traditional dress.

It’s the time for flowery speech making at podiums and hand shaking in front of cameras. Even the most unliked and least admired receive their five minutes of fame during UNGA. The particularly unpopular Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressed the Assembly amid a fair share of empty seats on Tuesday. Just a day earlier, he gave a speech to a skeptical crowd of Columbia University students, where he was characterized by the university’s president as having “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.”

I was surprised by the frankness with which Columbia University president Lee Bollinger spoke, but was pleased all the same by his unfiltered words. The institution leader’s introductory remarks reinforced the existence of freedom of speech that we as Americans have enjoyed since the creation of this nation. If I could send Mr. Ahmadinejad a welcome message, it would go something like this: ‘Sure, you can have your time at the podium because that’s how we do things in the U.S. I don’t have to like what you say, because that’s what the American way of agreeing to disagree is all about. But just so you know, while you’re out pushing your agenda, there’s going to be a fair share of people just beyond the walls of the United Nations Headquarters, Columbia University’s lecture hall where you’ll be speaking, and on the streets of New York with a few thoughts of their own. Just thought you might want to know that people have voices here, aren’t afraid to use them, and refuse to go unheard. Welcome to America.’

In fairness to both sides of the debate, there were a handful of protestors outside the UN Headquarters who were proponents of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s policies. Again, you’ve got to love this country for the fact that all sides are able to freely voice their opinions to anyone and everyone that will listen.

I heard both sides. Here’s to agreeing to disagree…

Comments

Comments

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
September 29, 2007

Eric in New Mexico writes:
Masharika: We Americans have a long standing tradition; When a fool wishes to hang himself with his own words, we'll gladly give him the rope.

Now you see why we are Host Country to the UN....(chuckle).

Freedom of speech does have its moments, eh?

Roy
|
Oregon, USA
October 8, 2007

Roy in Oregon writes:
I, quite frankly, was appalled by the rude and unwelcoming introduction of the Iranian President by Columbia University president Lee Bollinger. His diatribe may have prevented dialogue.

To what obscure rule of inhospitality does Mr. Bollinger subscribe?

Lika V.
|
New York, USA
October 8, 2007

Lika in New York writes:
You can follow up on my diplomatic mission; at http://likadiplomat2007.spaces.live.com

Stuck as a "double trouble always broadcast live on Government Communication Lines - Live and in all disruptions" I have one of the finest of them all as one of my viewers. This is not a joke, i handle the state affairs, one of the toughest you will ever meet!

Read my post on President Ahmadinejad, and the entire UN Press meeting, than the big mess meeting, with all manner the correctness of the UN Press Conferance.

May one reach him at the Iranian Palace, may another reach the President at the White House, may the othet call in the FBI at the NY Field Office; the problem here is "there is no problem with the Iranian Nuclear Power Plant."

I rather be at the general audience as i chosen to be on the Spaces Live (MSN), i have listeners, readers per day.

It is considered government communication lines disruptions live - on a Global Scale! Hey Mr. President can ya hear me!! That is all i have to say!!

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