Thursday, October 14, 1999

Richardson discusses global community, Chicago Maroon

Chicago Maroon
Richardson discusses global community
By Pamela Appea

Bill Richardson, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, spoke Thursday night at Hutchinson Commons in a lecture and discussion sponsored by the U of C’s Political Union. The event attracted over 300 people.

Richardson is a member of the President’s cabinet and the National Security Council. Prior to becoming to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Bill Richardson served New Mexico’s Third Congressional District, where he was elected eight times.

He has been described as one of the most prolific legislators in the House, with numerous bills and amendments enacted in environment, energy, Native American affairs, health, foreign policy, and defense areas, during which he successfully negotiated the release of three political prisoners and visas for their families. Ambassador Richardson has also chaired U.S. observer teams for elections in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Deutsche Demokratische Republik, the former East Germany.

“Ambassador Richardson’s an encyclopedia of diplomatic knowledge, as he should be,” said Jacob Studley, president of the Political Union, 1996 intern for Richardson and a third-year student at the college. “I think the event went well … he shone during the Q & A.”

Richardson’s twenty-minute speech was followed by a session in which he answered questions from audience members. Richardson began his speech by clearly enunciating the positive side of U.S. foreign policy during the two-term Clinton Administration.

“We’ve had some problems, we’ve had some bumps and bruises. But, on the whole, we have a coherent foreign policy,” said Richardson. “If you’re going to have a sustainable foreign policy, you’re going to have to have the support of the American people,” he said.

“As American Ambassador to the UN, I have dealt with issues concerning human rights, refugees, or conflicts in Africa, but have also attempted to explain to the American people why the UN is important,” he said.

The UN was formed in a historic conference held in San Francisco by several nations in 1945 after World War II. The goal of these countries was to maintain peace and to encourage political, social and economic security and stability over the world. While the role of the UN has changed over the years, Richardson stressed that it is still a vital, important organization.

The UN is active in over 172 countries, and according to Richardson, this year alone, the UN has monitored elections is more than 50 countries. Other organizations that operate under the UN include the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Richardson sees the role of the UN as that of a peacemaker more so than in the traditional peacekeeping light. He used Somalia, China and Bosnia as examples of this. “It’s a global village,” said Richardson. “It’s better to have summits, to keep a constructive dialogue going, in order to bring these countries into the international community.”

Richardson also wants to raise public consciousness in the amount of U.S. economic obligation to the UN, as our country currently pays 25 percent of the UN’s bills. He wants to lower America’s contributions to a rate of 20 percent.

“In the past two years, there has been great improvement in the UN, in terms of the budget,” said Richardson. “But we still have a long way to go.”

Many enjoyed Richardson’s speech.

“It is important for students who will one day be prominent in the county to pay attention to political matters because what’s happening in the world will have an effect late,” said Brandi Kishner, a first-year student in the College.

Richardson fielded several questions on the Middle East, in particular the current political events between Palestinians and Israelis.

“I thought his speech was excellent. He covered many topics. In particular, I liked that he wants a better understanding of the Arab world,” said Diane Mahmoud, a visitor from California.

Richardson was a member of the Resources Committee, the Commerce Committee, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Helsinki Commission on Human Rights. During the 103rd Congress he chaired the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs.

Richardson spoke earlier on in the day for the United States Hispanic Leadership Conference at Sheraton Chicago Hotel. Richardson received a B.A. (1970) from Tufts University and a M.A. (1971) from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

The Political Union has recruited many public figures, since its founding last year, including Betty Friedan and the President of Chile. They hope to sponsor at least three more speakers this year, and are currently attempting to bring King Hussein of Jordan to campus.

Originally published October 14, 1999