Kofi Annan Kicks Off Global Education Conference In St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

Kofi Annan Kicks Off Global Education Conference In St. Louis

May 28, 2013

Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, speaking in Cannes, France in 2009.
Credit bayerberg / Flickr


From climate change to economics, the future of the world is more interconnected than ever.

That was a key theme of Kofi Annan’s speech Tuesday evening that kicked off the Association of International Educators annual convention in St. Louis.  

The former Secretary General of United Nations opened by telling the crowd a story of how as a young exchange student in Minnesota, he learned to accept earmuffs, even though he thought they looked “inelegant” at first.

From that experience, Annan said he learned that you don’t go into a country and pretend you know better than the natives, and he said fostering an open exchange of ideas is critical to the world’s future.  

“Decisions taken in one country can have impacts on a community many miles away,” Annan said.

Annan also said that it should be a priority for world leaders to ensure women have equal access to a quality education and that students should not simply learn practical skills in the classroom, they should build their character.

“We need you to encourage our academic institutions to continue to provide the time, space and conditions where young people can learn the broader skills needed to become future global citizens,” Annan said.

Answering questions from attendees after the speech, Annan said military intervention in Syria could make things worse and an inability to prevent the Iraq war was his greatest professional failure.

More than 8,000 education professionals from 120 countries will be in St. Louis through Friday.

Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd