A Life Worthy of Tribute
Kofi Annan’s life on this earth stood for much. He was born in relative privilege in his native Ghana. Perhaps that gave him a head start compared to most of his compatriots, that is true. But what is notable, I believe, is that he did not squander the “treasure” he had been given.
He pursued higher education, recognizing its value in the pursuit of his career. He did not aspire to greatness; in fact, his very character displayed a humility rarely seen in one who would go on to such an illustrous career – leading the United Nations from 1997 through 2006.
For his early efforts in revitalizing the UN, setting – and achieving Millennium Development Goals to eradicate poverty and improve living standards around the world, Annan received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.
Annan played a vital role in stemming the global AIDS crisis. He also stood up against the U.S. and Britain in their decision to invade Iraq, calling it “illegal” and not in conformity the UN Charter.
Not Perfect, Just Human
Annan’s life was not without controversy. Many blame him for not acting swiftly enough to stem the genocides in both Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzogovenia. He later publically expressed his deep regret for his slow response to both these crises.
And in 2004, Annan became embroiled in a controversy over the UN’s Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq, a case in which his own son profited financially from an illicit contract.
He didn’t do everything right. He is not without his critics.
"A Guiding Force for Good"
But Kofi Annan’s life on the whole stood for good. As the current UN Secretary General António Guterres remarked, Annan was “a guiding force for good.” Guterres added: “He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world.” (Source)
How This Applies to Us
As we think about our own lives – and the children whose lives we shape and influence – let us dwell on these words.
Are we “a guiding force for good?”
Are we people who offer “a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving, and a path to a better world?”
We may never have the breadth of platform Kofi Annan had. We may never become famous. But we do have influence. We are all leaders of someone, first and foremost, ourselves.
How do we lead our lives?
And how do we use our lives for the betterment of others?
If you are a parent, you have children who are watching you. They are learning from your every move. They will choose to either emulate you or do everything they can to differentiate from you. Are you giving them reason to want to be like you?
Do you care?
I hope you do.
Kofi Annan clearly did. He didn’t do everything right, for sure. None of us do. But on balance, the legacy he leaves in this world is one of contribution. Of integrity. Of gentle firmness. Of grace.
What legacy do you intend to leave?
And, perhaps more immediately, how will you live your today?
I ask that question because your legacy is a summation of all your todays.
Will you choose to live this day with integrity, gentle firmness of conviction, with grace (and faith)? Will you choose to be a contributor of good, not a taker and faker?
Will you choose the higher path?
I hope you will.
Our world needs your best self. And mine, too.
What can you do today to build a legacy worthy of being called "a guiding force for good?"
Image credit: http://www.kofiannanfoundation.org. Creative Commons image.
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