Cel­e­bra­tions as United Na­tions char­ter turns 70


Hun­dreds of peo­ple packed the ro­tunda of San Fran­cisco City Hall to mark the 70th birth­day of the sign­ing of the United Na­tions char­ter.

U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Kimoon, who trav­eled to San Fran­cisco to mark the an­niver­sary, called the two-month con­fer­ence that led to the sign­ing an au­da­cious en­deavor, one where a de­sire for a bet­ter world over­came the hor­rors of two world wars.

“Ladies and gen­tle­men, the draft­ing of the char­ter was a glo­ri­ous gam­ble. Del­e­gates from dozens of coun­tries bet on hu­man­ity,” he said, adding, “For two months, they turned San Fran­cisco’s War Me­mo­rial into a peace palace.”

The United Na­tions was born on Oct. 24, 1945, af­ter gov­ern­ments in a ma­jor­ity of coun­tries ap­proved the char­ter.

The cer­e­mony on Fri­day was just one of sev­eral events on Ban’s sched­ule. He re­ceived a medal from the Har­vey Milk Foun­da­tion for his work on be­half of gay, les­bian, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple around the world.

In the evening, Ban and other dig­ni­taries were sched­uled to dine at the Fair­mont Ho­tel, where some of the ne­go­ti­a­tions took place in 1945.

The U.N., now made up of nearly 200 mem­ber coun­tries, has the key goals of safe­guard­ing peace, pro­mot­ing hu­man rights and de­liv­er­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid. The mis­sion in mod­ern times has come to em­brace cli­mate change, gay rights and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, even as the world body con­fronts a se­ries of stub­born con­flicts in places such as Ye­men, South Su­dan and Syria.

Com­pound­ing the his­toric na­ture of the day was a de­ci­sion by the U.S. Supreme Court that same­sex cou­ples are free to marry any­where in the United States — a rul­ing wel­comed by Ban and other po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who spoke at the U.N. com­mem­o­ra­tion.

San Fran­cisco Mayor Ed Lee, Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi com­mented on the gay mar­riage rul­ing to ap­plause from the crowd.

“Mar­riage equal­ity, the rights of same-sex cou­ples now rec­og­nized by the high­est court of the land: Who would have ever thought that, even five years ago?” Brown said.

In the au­di­ence was 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate who was shot by a gun­man in 2012 for ad­vo­cat­ing ed­u­ca­tion for girls in Pak­istan. She sat serenely on the sec­ond floor of City Hall and waved to the crowd be­low and all around her.

Also in the au­di­ence was Libba Pat­ter­son, a 97-year-old woman whose San Fran­cisco Bay Area fam­ily hosted a teenage Ban as part of an in­ter­na­tional Red Cross ef­fort in 1962. It was the first trip abroad for Ban, who had suf­fered through the Korean War as a young boy, and who found re­lief in the food handed out by U.N. peace­keep­ers.

“San Fran­cisco is not just the birthplace of the United Na­tions,” Ban said. “For me, per­son­ally, it was the place where my pas­sion as a young boy to be a global citizen, that was born.”

Chris What­ley, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the United Na­tions As­so­ci­a­tion of the USA, said San Fran­cisco was se­lected for the con­fer­ence and even­tual sign­ing, partly, to re­mind na­tions that World War II was be­ing fought on two fronts — Europe and the Pa­cific. Plus, the city with its ship­yards per­fectly em­bod­ied the cen­tury’s boom­ing in­dus­trial econ­omy.

“It was em­blem­atic of Amer­ica’s eco­nomic power, and the U.S. host wanted to show what could be achieved in a na­tion at peace,” What­ley said. “It was more than a venue for the ne­go­ti­a­tions. The city it­self was a par­tic­i­pant in the ne­go­ti­a­tions.”


U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon, fore­ground cen­ter, speaks at a cer­e­mony for the 70th an­niver­sary of the United Na­tions in San Fran­cisco, Fri­day, June 26.

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