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The UU-UNO Director’s Letter

August 31, 2012


UU-UNO The Movie: 50 years at the UN

This is the Emmy (2) Award winning actor, Andre Braugher.  You may not know his name, but you’ve seen him in many films and TV shows like: Glory, Salt, Law and Order and House.  He is a Unitarian Universalist who attends the Unitarian Universalist Church in Montclair, NJ with his wife Ami Brabson (also a famous actress) and their children. 

The UU-UNO is making a documentary about our 50 years at the UN and Andre Braugher has already done the narration for this film.  I was privileged to listen in on Andre Braugher’s narration of our film, which he did in a studio in Hawaii where he is working on a new series called The Last Resort, where Andre plays a nuclear submarine captain who questions his orders to launch his missiles at Pakistan.  The series starts this fall on the ABC network. 

As I listened to Andre narrate our script, I was very impressed with the acting profession.  Andre is a perfectionist.  With no director present, he did take after take until he was satisfied.  I thought the first take was amazing, but he made sure that he read each word with the proper emphasis to tell our story in the most compelling way possible.  The film will be amazing, if only because of Andre’s magnificent narration.  The film will seek to realize, what we call the “Ken Burns effect.”  We will have interviews and photographs and music as Andre’s resonant voice pulls us through our 50 year story.  Everyone who attends our celebration will get a copy of the film.

The UU-UNO’s 50th anniversary celebration

The UU-UNO will celebrate its 50th anniversary at The New York Times Center.  We’ll have a top notch caterer to serve an international variety of heavy hor d'oeuvres (more than adequate to make it your dinner).  We’ll have an open bar and lots of good company beginning at 6:30 PM on November 3rd, 2012.  We’ll have a silent auction with some very nice donated items such as: time at a condo in Hawaii, and other very attractive goods and services. 

The program will begin in the beautiful New York Times auditorium at 8 PM.  Our speakers will include our UUA President, Rev. Peter Morales.  Our keynote speaker will be Gillian Sorensen who is a senior advisor to the UN Foundation and former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations under Kofi Annan.  

Gillian is a Unitarian Universalist.  Her late husband, Ted Sorensen, was John F. Kennedy’s speech writer and close advisor and a Unitarian Universalist.  According to reports, JFK ask Ted if his Catholicism was rubbing off on Ted.  Ted replied, “No, but I think my Unitarianism is rubbing off on you, Mr. President.”  We credit the founding of the UU-UNO to a suggestion from JFK’s Ambassador to the UN, Adlai Stevenson II.  

His son, Senator Adlai Stevenson III will also speak to us on November 3rd.  We also honor the work of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt who helped found the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Representing President Roosevelt’s family will be Professor Maura Roosevelt, who teaches creative writing at New York University.  As you leave at 9:30 PM, we’ll treat you to New York City’s famous Crumbs cupcakes.

We know it may be a long hike for some people to come to New York City, so we are working on making it worth your time by creating a New York experience package.  We’ve negotiated airline discounts and discounts on hotels, restaurants and other New York City attractions.  We want to fill the house. 

Tickets are available online.  If you have items to donate to the Silent Auction, please download this form.  More information is available at www.uu-uno.org.

What else can you do to help us celebrate?       

1.     You can also donate to our scholarship fund so that those who cannot afford the cost of the ticket can attend or donate to the UU-UNO 50th Anniversary Fund.

    2.     You should make sure that your congregation has a UN Sunday and that you celebrate our 50 years at the UN.  We ask that your congregation take a collection for the UNO’s work and send the donation remembering to note it is for the UU-UNO to:

    Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)
    Attn: Stewardship and Development
    25 Beacon Street
    Boston, MA 02108

Lunch with Security Council Ambassadors

I’m pretty busy at the UN.  I chair the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights, the Faith and Ethics Network for the International Criminal Court and I’m the Vice Chair of the UN NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security.  This last position also makes me a member of the important NGO Security Council Working group which organizes meetings with ambassadors to the UN Security Council.  The UN Security Council has five permanent members (China, Russia, France, Britain, and the USA=the P5) and ten rotating members elected for a two year term, which cannot be immediately repeated.  Recently we’ve individually visited with the ambassadors of India, South Africa and Germany at their respective missions.  The Indians and South Africans served lunch and the Germans gave us coffee and some very nice cookies.  All three nations have aspirations to becoming permanent members of the Security Council.  Our conversations are off the record.  However, I can disclose that UN Security Council reform was high on the list of all three of these important nations.  Many of us in the NGO community would like to see the UN veto abolished.  It’s interesting that some who aspire to permanent member status equivocate on this issue.  They would either like to see the P5 countries give up the veto or to expand the permanent membership be expanded to include them and give them the veto also.  Frankly in my opinion, more countries with a veto at the UN Security Council will only make matters worse.  Abolition of the veto is the way to go.

The terrible situation in Syria is a constant preoccupation of the UN Security Council (UNSC).  Vetoes by China and Russia have stymied the UNSC.  The rather quick resolution of the difficult situation in Libya was facilitated because there was no veto on UN action.  No such luck in the case of Syria which just gets worse all the time.  When there is no veto, the UN can be a very effective instrument for peace.  My questions focus on human rights and remind these ambassadors of the importance of human rights in all their deliberations.  My comments and questions deal with the role of the International Criminal Court, women’s rights and sexual orientation/gender identity human rights.  I’ve also discussed the doctrine of discovery, the rights of indigenous peoples and the rights of migrants.  No one individual meeting will change the world.  However, our presentment rising of human rights have changed the UN forever.  We introduced sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI) human rights in a persistent and effective way that has resulted in changes in UN personnel, policies and procedures in ways which will be very difficult to undo.  In the past the UU-UNO led the faith-based caucus to found the International Criminal Court which is likely to remain for many years to come.  Finally, we have worked to make peace a core goal of all the religious groups at the UN.  Without our 50 years of questions and raising issues, the UN would be a very different and less humane institution.  Like a little bit of yeast increases the loaf of bread, so our little office continues to have a large impact on this paramount global organization.

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