Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where the Moon Don't Shine

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is not required to be an orator, and none of the 8 men who have held the office has been an inspiring public speaker. However, all except the incumbent, Ban Ki-moon, have had the good sense to deliver professionally written speeches; although generally soporific they did not make audiences wince, at least not in print. Ban’s speeches, even in print – perhaps especially in print – are squirm inducing, for he suffers from the fond belief that he can write his own material – and that he is funny.

The UN Press corps, except for Undiplomatic Times, has been generally kind in taking note of the disastrous consequences, but now Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch, who blogs at Foreign Policy, has posted a priceless piece about Ban’s efforts at humor. In “It’s OK, You’re Allowed to Laugh,” he strings together some of the unbelievably awkward things Ban has said in his efforts at humor. It’s definitely worth a click.

 As I have had occasion to note in previous blogs, Ban imagines himself something of a songster. When still a Secretary-Geleral-elect, he appeared at the annual UN Correspondent’s Association Ball and droned out “Ban Ki-moon is coming to town” to the tune of the Santa Claus song. Colum records a more recent attempt to escape the bounds of prose:

“In an Oct. 2008 speech before the United Nations Association, Ban took inspiration from rap star and producer, Jay-Z, who was being honored for his humanitarian works, and delivered a rap homage to the association's then-president, William Leurs. ‘I will try to be a bit courageous and creative myself,’ Ban said. ‘Since one of the honorees is my man Jay-Z, I think I'll try his language tonight. It is a foreign language to me, but one which I love, so please bear with me’."

Global Classrooms are a cinch
With the help of Merrill Lynch
When you put the org in Google
Partnerships go truly gloooobal.
There is hope for Earth's salvation
With the Cisneros Foundation
With Jay-Z there's double strife
Life for children and water for life
Human health will get ahead
With the valiant work of (RED)
For the poor and doing good
Stays the job of Robin Hood
UN stays on the front burner
Thanks to our champ Ted Turner
And whole revolutions stem
From the work of UNIFEM.
But tonight my special shout-out
Goes to one I can't do without
We have travelled up and down
Frisco, Atlanta, Chicago town
Yes, the king of all the doers
Is my trusty friend Bill Luers
Bill, I cannot say goodbye
So take the floor and take a bow.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ambassador Bill Luers.”

 Colum's piece ends on a note of pathos only UN correspondents can fully appreciate:
“In recent months, Ban, who was reelected this summer to serve a second five-year term as U.N. chief, likes to joke about the lukewarm support he receives at home. This is clearly one of Ban's favorite jokes, and he's used it more than once. Speaking in August at the Denver University Korbel School's annual dinner, Ban recalled "I was deeply honoured that the General Assembly supported my re-election. The vote was unanimous: 100 percent. But then a Korean reporter asked my wife how she would rate my work as a husband and father, she said, ‘Well, I'd give him 70 percent.' So I lodged a protest -- a strong protest. I thought my daughter might support me. But she said, ‘70 percent sounds rather generous.' So I have decided that my first priority for my second term is not foreign affairs-- it is domestic policy!

 "Ladies and germs, he'll be here all week. Make that five more years.”

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