Remarks by Kofi Annan at AUC Reception, New York

Remarks at Reception held by the American University in Cairo in Honor of the Nadia Younes Memorial Fund
New York, May 12, 2005
Mr. Chairman of the Board of Trustees,
Mr. President,
Mr. Ambassador,
Mr. Younes,

Nane and I are delighted and moved to be here. The Nadia Younes Memorial Fund is a wonderful way to honour a colleague whose memory will remain with us forever. Let me thank the American University in Cairo and all those who helped made it happen.

And a beautiful memory it is that lives on among all of us in the United Nations family who had the benefit of working with Nadia.

There is a plaque in Nadia’s old office which reads: “She reached for the highest professional standards in her work… and took profound pleasure in life. Her throaty laughter fills this room still.”

That truly sums up the Nadia I knew. Nadia was professional to the core, and we trusted her to take on any challenge with the utmost aplomb.

But at the same time, Nadia showed us that one can be principled without being pompous. As she used to say, “you don’t have to be serious just because something is important.”

Nadia never let her ego get in the way of her humanity. There was no hypocrisy, no fixation with hierarchy of the kind that is all too common in Organizations like ours. She treated people as equals — as I can personally testify!

During her more than 30 years with the United Nations, Nadia’s personality developed as she took on various positions of increasing responsibility. But one thing remained constant: she possessed a rare and precious combination of elegance, political savvy, social grace and humour that won her allies wherever she went.

Nadia inspired a whole generation of young women – and men — by demonstrating that there were no limits to what a person with talent, commitment and courage could achieve.

And she inspired all of us — regardless of age — to keep things in proportion.

Whenever we get needlessly overwrought, we will remember Nadia’s voice telling us to “get a grip”.

And whenever we are tempted to take ourselves too seriously, we will remember the sound of her laughter resonating down the corridors of the United Nations.

That is surely the best inspiration any of us could ever wish for.

So once again, thanks to all those who are helping keep Nadia’s memory alive through the Nadia Younes Memorial Fund.

Nadia, I can hear you now telling me that I’ve spoken quite enough for one evening. So let me just say, thank you, Nadia, for everything — your United Nations family will always treasure you.