John Smart

The United Nations – and Wisconsin’s Role in the World

By - Mar 21st, 2011 04:00 am
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Courtesy the United Nations

“The U.N. is not just a product of do-gooders. It is harshly real.  The day will come when men will see the U.N. and what it means, clearly.  Everything will be all right – you know when? When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as some weird Picasso abstraction, and see it as a drawing they made themselves.”

So said Dag Hammarskjöld, the Swedish diplomat who was the U.N.’s first Secretary General.

Dr. Ralph Bunche, winner of the  Nobel Peace Prize and U.S. Medal of Freedom, and also one of the drafters of the U.N. Charter, considered that “The United Nations is our one great hope for a peaceful and free world.”

Adlai Stevenson, President John Kennedy’s Ambassador to the U.N., said, “The whole basis of the United Nations is the right of all nations – great or small – to have weight, to have a vote, to be attended to, to be a part of the twentieth century.”  I have no doubt that Stevenson would include the twenty-first century as well.

These quotes emphasize what should be the most important aspects of the United Nations:  the fact that all of the citizens of the world should be represented and heard if the world body is to fulfill its challenge.  But do all Americans really understand that challenge, much less the goals, successes and occasional failings of the U.N.?

In 1959, Wisconsin’s Governor Gaylord Nelson created a unique body, the Wisconsin Governor’s Commission on the United Nations, in an effort to build awareness of the U.N. and its peace-keeping mission.  All governors since then, Republicans and Democrats alike, have appointed commissioners from various civic, religious, labor, business and educational organizations.

The Commission is charged with supervising the state’s observance of United Nations Day on October 24th, the anniversary of the adoption of the U.N. Charter in 1945, and International Human Rights Day on December 10th, which also marks the anniversary of the signing of the International Declaration on Human Rights.  The Commission does significant outreach to schools and civic organizations to provide knowledge of the United Nations, its history and goals. It also expresses “its views on issues affecting the U.N., and communicates its views to public officials and the news media.”

Our current commissioners were appointed by both Republican and Democratic governors. I myself was appointed to the Governor’s Commission on the United Nations by Governor Doyle in 2004, and I am honored to have been so chosen. It has been a very satisfying experience getting to know my fellow commissioners, and I am firmly of the opinion that we have done valuable work.

Photo courtesy of

Incidentally, the Commission has operated under an informal budget of about $2,000 per annum, to be used primarily for travel, and has hardly ever been used.  All of us volunteer our time and expenses for this cause.

But Governor Scott Walker doesn’t think we need this unique institution. Weeks before his contentious budget repair bill was announced, each member of the Commission received an official letter from Eric Esser, the governor’s appointments director,  stating that “the decision was made to not reestablish the Governor’s Commission on the United Nations. As a result of this decision, pursuant to Wisconsin Statute, section 14.019, the board [sic] no longer exists at this time.”

A Wisconsin institution with a 52-year history, the only one of its kind in the United States, is no more. It has not been an expensive program, and has lent our state considerable prestige in international circles. In this increasingly global environment, doesn’t it make sense to educate Americans on the role of the United Nations?

I think we deserve an answer to that question.

Categories: Commentary

0 thoughts on “The United Nations – and Wisconsin’s Role in the World”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It seems like Governor Walker is making an effort to turn Wisconsin into Burma, rather Myanmar, except that they are actually members of the United Nations. It definitely feels as though he is pulling his head under the covers and trying to dream himself back to some mid-fifties totalitarian reality with himself as the little dictator in shiny boots. When did ignorance of the world become a badge worn with pride?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well, you know those Koch brothers and their fellow John Birch Society types just hate the United Nations and all that peacenik new world order stuff. Walker is only doing their bidding as usual.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Walker epitomizes the old-fashioned Republican thinking that takes us back to the “good old days” when America was truly No. One in the world and, in their view, the rest of the world existed to “serve” us!!!
    I hear their tripe from many local area residents here in northeastern Wisconsin. They still think that the USA should (and can!) go it alone, leaving the rest of the world to get along as best it can.
    Of course, royal governors used to dismiss the Virginia House of Burgess regularly. So many of our nation’s Founding Fathers went off to nearby taverns and continued their discussions!!
    Time to strengthen the United Nations Association here in Wisconsin and keep the idea and ideals of the UN alive until a political figure with more vision and concern for the world comes to the fore. Scott Walker could be gone in about a year or so; or so we can hope, plan, pray and work for that goal!!! Until then, I simply do not refer to him as “governor”, just by name.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Did we really expect any more walker or less depending on you want to look at it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Oh please! We NEED a baanced budget. Every household, every local government in Wsconsin and our State government need balanced budgets and to operate within their means. $2000, albeit small, may have been contributing to the imbalanced budget in Our State. Your group is certainly is not a necessity, even if the stated mission is good. As a side note, however, remember the huge price the UN wanted to exact from countries for carbon taxes based on bad science, and inconclusive science. Remember wiki leaks.

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