Kofi Annan on Public Service

In this changing world of new challenges we need, more than ever before, dedicated and talented individuals to enter public service....

You may think to yourself, what difference can one person make in the face of giant corporations, ecological threats, and organized conflict? Yet there have always been, and always will be, those who make a difference one by one. Look to Nelson Mandela, who went from prisoner to president because of his unbending integrity, bravery, and beliefs. Look to Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains a lodestar of democratic values after years in house arrest in Burma.... Look to Raoul Wallenberg, who as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews....

These individuals' lives should be an inspiration for others to act; for future generations to act; for all of us to act. As Edmund Burke wrote: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

... Courage does not mean lack of fear, for only the foolish are fearless; it means doing things in spite of your fear. Confront those fears, take risks for what you believe, for it is only then you will find what you are capable of; you will discover that if your intentions are good, the worst your opponents can do to you is really not that bad. Go out and make your difference in this world. And don't forget to have fun along the way.

* From United Nations Secretary-General Annan's talk at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minn., on May 17.

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