United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined American Red Cross Chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter and President and CEO Mark W. Everson at the organization’s historic national headquarters building in Washington, D.C., to discuss the importance of partnerships in alleviating human suffering internationally.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and staff chuckle over a picture of Ban during his time with the American Red Cross as part of Operation VISTA in 1962. Noting his traditional Korean attire, Ban joked that his tastes have changed. "I must have been brave back then," he said. (Photo credit: Daniel Cima, American Red Cross.)
For the secretary-general, the meeting was also an opportunity to reconnect with memories of his first visit to the United States as a Korean Red Cross youth volunteer. Ban participated in Operation VISTA's Junior Red Cross international volunteer program as a high school student in 1962. Ban often cites this American Red Cross-sponsored exchange visit as the inspiration for his diplomatic career.
During his exchange visit, Ban struck up what would become a lifelong friendship with Florence Tupper, a Red Crosser who served as a mentor to him and other foreign youth volunteers studying Red Cross programs and the American community.
During his visit to American Red Cross headquarters, the secretary-general was presented with his Red Cross photo from 1962 and a recent story highlighting his ties to Ms. Tupper. Meeting participants departed with renewed enthusiasm for the important role that governments, non-governmental organizations, and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement play in meeting humanitarian needs worldwide.
The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.