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Speeches & Testimony


Speeches & Testimony

Extension of Remarks on 75th Anniversary of the United Nations

Madam Speaker,

I rise to commemorate the upcoming 75th anniversary of the United Nations and recognize the continued importance of multilateral action as we pursue a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.

On October 24, 1945, less than two months after the world emerged from the deadliest conflict in human history, the United Nations Charter entered into force, formally creating the United Nations. The Charter was and continues to be a visionary document dedicated to the indispensable idea that, through diplomacy and consultation, states can work together to achieve a better world.

American leadership played a central role in the effort to establish the United Nations. Even before the United States entered the Second World War, President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter to outline their vision for the post-war international order. In the final years of the war, individuals like Cordell Hull, Edward Stettinius Jr., Ralph Bunche and many others played crucial roles in shaping the draft United Nations Charter.

Congress was deeply involved as well, with Members on both sides of the aisle participating in the San Francisco Conference. Representatives Sol Bloom of New York and Charles Aubrey Eaton of New Jersey and Senators Tom Connally of Texas and Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan helped make the case for the United Nations in Congress and to the American public. On July 28, 1945, the Senate voted to ratify the United Nations Charter by an overwhelming vote of 89 in favor, 2 against – a dramatic change from the rejection of the League of Nations just 26 years prior.

Yet the push for a United Nations also came from beyond the halls of Washington. In 1943, a dedicated, passionate group of Americans created the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), bringing the discussion of a post-war order to homes and communities across the country. Thus began a rich history of advocacy for American leadership and participation in the United Nations that continues to this day, with over 20,000 UNA-USA members in over 200 chapters across the country.

In the decades since 1945, through the most turbulent years of the Cold War, through the challenges of decolonization and entering the new millennium, the United Nations has been center stage for the international community in addressing issues like conflict and peace, economic development, global health, gender equality, human rights and more. Through the United Nations and the multitude of specialized agencies that have emerged to coordinate international action, the international community has come together to eradicate smallpox and curb other infectious diseases, protect the ozone layer, lift millions out of poverty, promote maternal and child health, preserve cultural and historical sites and so much more.

Yet, in an era of renewed great power competition, we must not forget nor neglect the responsibility of the United Nations for international peace. This duty is enshrined first in the preamble of the United Nations Charter in its resolution to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” In our world today, amidst heightened tensions, rising nationalism and a growing rejection of multilateralism, we cannot afford to forget United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld’s famous statement that “the United Nations was not created in order to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell.”

No one can deny that there are limits and flaws to the United Nations, and examples abound of ways in which the organization has fallen short. Yet it is also an evolving institution, reshaping itself to face the challenges and meet the demands of an ever-changing world. To quote Hammarskjöld again, “setbacks in trying to realize the ideal do not prove the ideal is at fault.”

The United Nations was America’s answer to an uncertain global future in 1945. Since then, the United Nations has been a pillar of the liberal international order that has benefited not just the United States but the entire world as well.

It is too early to say exactly how future historians will recall 2020. The challenges ahead are many, not just this COVID-19 pandemic, but also a worldwide economic recession, a global refugee crisis, climate change, and more. America’s answer to those challenges must include the United Nations. It falls upon all of us today, as heirs to the legacy of those brave and visionary Americans who won both the war and the peace after, to continue working with the United Nations in pursuit of the future we want.

Thank you.