Thank you ladies and gentlemen for that warm welcome. It is a privilege and a pleasure to be able to join you for this important celebration. I can think of no tribute to Ted Sorensen more fitting than an institution which will both challenge younger minds, and equip them with the tools of leadership.
There are no subjects more appropriate, or more worthy of Ted’s intellectual legacy, than the complex and challenging pursuit of international peace and justice. This is a moral imperative for all of us who, like Ted, abhorred violence and human suffering. And who believe that justice is not justice if it is not extended to all. Thanks in part to his relentless belief in peace between peoples, the threat of nuclear war, and the spectre of mutually assured destruction no longer haunt our world.
And yet, in our increasingly interconnected world, conflict continues to plague us, devastating entire societies. Repressive governments, extremists, and organized crime; all perpetrate violence. Sadly, in far too many corners of the globe, the victims of past crimes and potential victims of future atrocities still cry out for justice. Too often, sovereignty and impunity stymie the promise of justice. The world needs young peacemakers, enthused and energized, with the determination to seek justice for all. I hope that the Sorensen center will be a beacon of inspiration for them.
Ted once wrote that the United Nations was “our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace.” But what is the UN? It is far more than a collection of States: the United Nations is each of us; Ted, myself, and all of you here today. It is we, the peoples, who have both the power and responsibility for crafting peace, and extending justice to all.
There is no magic formula; genuine peace is the sum of many small actions. Or as Ted put once wrote: “peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on.”
I am sure that like me, he would be heartened to see that so many young and eager minds are now ready take up this most noble pursuit. And, should you doubt your capacity to change a world in which it can sometimes appear that the instruments of war have outpaced the instruments of peace, consider the many accomplishments for which Ted continues to be celebrated.
Ted was the embodiment of my belief that you are never too young to lead. Although he lived to old age, so many of his outstanding achievements came early on in his life. Ted’s life and work will serve as an inspiration to the new generations that follow him in public service. I can only hope that they will build on his extraordinary legacy and his enduring commitment to peace and justice.