8.02.2015

At SF City Hall the Day the UN Turned 70, SCOTUS Formalized Marriage Equality, and Malala Spoke

June 26th was a day to be at San Francisco City hall. I was invited to attend the UN70 ceremony to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter as part of the Bay Area Digital Leaders initiative, which was thrilling enough -- I knew we'd get to see UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and SF's own Mayor Ed Lee speak. I was honored to witness such recounting of history, listen to such people, and be present during such a milestone.

And then, the morning of the ceremony, SCOTUS ruled that marriage equality was the new law of our land. Much happy hollering happened at our house, I can assure you. Though I arrived at City Hall after the morning's celebratory rally, I still got to see many jubilant people getting married (or celebrating the ability to get married) without worrying that their marriage might be delegitimized by my fine state -- or any other in our more perfect union.

And then, during the gorgeous UN70 ceremony, Malala Yousafzai made a surprise appearance. It turned out she was actually sitting right next to me, just around a pillar on the balcony overlooking the ceremony. And then Malala came and gave a surprise talk to our Bay Area Digital Leaders crew afterward. I was ten feet away from Malala, twice in one day. I nearly swooned, both times.

As you may imagine if you know me, processing such events took a while, which is why I'm only writing about it now. For full details about UN70, I recommend the official UN70 site. But if you want to see my pictures -- and to see my video and read my transcription of Malala's talk, keep scrolling.

(So much wow.)

The UN70 Ceremony
[image: Atrium of San Francisco City Hall, seen from the second floor balcony,
with floor and balconies full of people of all ages, races, and genders.
An iron-railed staircase is lined with flags of different nations and a boys choir,
and leads to a large light blue draped rectangle featuring the white UN logo.]
The UN70 ceremony featured a number of surprise guests, such as our very own Governor, Jerry Brown, who reminisced about being a child in the audience when the UN Charter was first signed. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and UN Foundation founder and chairman Ted Turner were also sitting in the front row.

Governor Jerry Brown addressing the crowd
[image: balding white man wearing a suit,
speaking into a microphone at a podium,
to a large audience, next to a collection
of international flags.]
UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon was charming and inspiring, in delivering his message of the importance of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations:
"Every day, the United Nations makes a positive difference for millions of people: vaccinating children; distributing food aid; sheltering refugees; deploying peacekeepers; protecting the environment; seeking the peaceful resolution of disputes and supporting democratic elections, gender equality, human rights and the rule of law."
UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon
[image: Korean man with short black hair
and glasses wearing a dark suit,
speaking into a microphone at a podium,
next to a collectionof international flags.]
And then, the Secretary-General gestured up to near where I was sitting, and said something about welcoming a Very Special Guest. The crowd started roaring. I couldn't hear exactly what he was saying due to the din, so peeked around the pillar to my left -- and this is who I saw:

Malala Yousafzai and entourage
[image: teen Pakistani girl wearing a
colorful headscarf and outfit, seen in profile,
seated at a balcony amidst a row of other people.]
Yes, that is Malala Yousafzai, 2014 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Reader, I nearly fainted.

And if that wasn't enough of an honor, Malala joined UN and UN Foundation officials Cristina Gallach, Maher Nasser, and Aaron Sherinian, in addressing we fortunate attendees of the Bay Area Digital Leaders reception. 

Mr. Nasser, who is Palestinian, spoke to us about how one of the reasons he supports and works for the UN is because he spent part of his childhood as a refugee, and was educated in UN Schools. And Malala spoke about the importance of not waiting for anyone but you to start making a change in the world, as well as on behalf of global human rights and personal responsibility. She also echoed some of the statements I recently made about iPads and like tech, in terms of understanding that such advances are not available to all students, and that life-changing tech needs to adapt and be beneficial under low tech circumstances. My video and transcription of Malala's talk is below.

I hope she will leave you as inspired as she and the entire UN70 day left me.

Cristina Gallach, Maher Nasser, Malala Yousafzai, and Aaron Sherinian
[image and video description: A teen Pakistani girl, wearing a colorful hijab,
talking into a microphone, to a crowd of people recording her with
smart phones. She is accompanied by a Spanish woman with
chin-length brown hair; a Palestinian man with close-shaven dark hair,
and a tall white American man with short black hair]



TRANSCRIPT

AARON SHERINIAN:

We ask for some words from you.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI:

Thank you so much all of you, it’s a great opportunity to be here and meet the young generation with wonderful ideas about how to use technology in this mission of raising voices and speaking up for education, and equality, and human rights. And I think it is important that you are all here, and trying to help, and trying to discover how you can use technology in this process.

Because sometimes people ask me, “Why don’t you speak up for that country, why don’t you raise your voice for this issue.” And the message that I always give is:

You have to do it.

Do not wait for someone else to come and speak for you. It’s you who can change the world.

Nor was Martin Luther King Jr. waiting for someone else to speak against racism and discrimination in society, nor was Nelson Mandela waiting. They did it themselves.  And now we need to believe in ourselves; we need to believe in the power we have — the power of voice. And we need to stand up for our rights, and say that we can bring change in the world.

Unfortunately, there are many truths in the world such as people are being discriminated, women are not being given full rights in many countries, and they are not being given the opportunities to do what many can do. So it’s time we speak up for them, we hear their voices, and we help girls to go to school. And this has been the one thing we have been trying to do — it is my mission to see every child going to school. But for now I am focusing on secondary education, because I believe that secondary education is so important. Our world leaders, they only think about primary education.

[few seconds missing, your inept operator accidentally hit ‘stop’ on the camera.]

We have bigger dreams we can achieve — our achievements can be bigger. And that’s why we’ve set our development goals. We have done our best and are still continuing to try to make sure that families get quality education, and free and compulsory secondary education should be included in that, so that both girls and boys do not get deprived of this opportunity, and the chance to go to college, and to discover their full potential.

So we are hoping that you will support us in this campaign, and technology — again — can play a part in all of it. We all together, joining this movement, can bring change, and you can bring great inspiration, to the whole world. And you might believe it or not, but there are children in the poor countries who are waiting and hoping that someone will help them one day — and that is you, and that is one of us who are studying here, who is going to do something.

It’s the modern age. It’s the Twenty-First Century. But unfortunately there are still those living as though before the 19th century. So it’s important that technology is introduced there. And you might think, “well, how could I help a child there with an iPad or a phone or something like that — but we need to think: does the child know anything about an iPad? Has the child *seen* this technology? So before thinking of technology and how it can be important for education, we need to make sure that children in developing countries know about it, and how it can be powerful in helping them with education, and raising awareness, and spreading the message about equality and human rights.

So I’m hopeful that you will have wonderful ideas, and I support you all, and thank you once again.

—-

AARON SHERINIAN: 

Is there a message that a girl somewhere should hear from you on this day in San Francisco?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI:

A girl in a developing country — or a developed country — should be really proud, and should be really hopeful that there are these people thinking about their future, and trying to help them. Because when it comes to women’s rights, it does not depend on which country you live — there is discrimination in almost every country.

So to that girl, to give them hope, she should know that there’s going to be a campaign for her equality, for her education, for her rights, and she should not lose hope that she’ll be discriminated against in society. Because we are here to study with her and allow her to raise her voice, and have this right to a quality education.

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