Familiar Faces Renew U.N. Loyalty: 50 Years Guided Tours Reunion

11/22/2002

It was like a festival of bursting creative energy as hundreds of former tour guides who represented the UN to the public gathered on the occasion of the tour's 50th anniversary. They came from different continents drawn from varied backgrounds, all unified in their loyalty to the United Nations' principles of understanding among cultures and peace among nations. They laughed, reminisced, new guides and old told stories and exchanged anecdotes. One of the oldest said the most frequent question of visitors was: Where did Soviet leader Kruschev bang his shoe? One of the youngest, a Ghanien, said she was often asked whether she was related to her compatriot Kofi Annan.

The Secretary General was on hand. He was mobbed by photo and autograph seekers as he made his way through the General Assembly lobby to open a special exhibit. His speech was to the point, spoken with warmth and grace. It was when the new head of the Department of Public Information, Shashi Tharour, introduced one unfamiliar speaker after another, exchanging niceties and attempting subtle humour, that the large crowd resumed their enthusiastic conversation, despite public reminders by Tharour to lend their ears to the speakers. Some said they were simply not interested to hear anyone else after the Secretary General, except their own colleagues' recounting experiences. One said many of her colleagues were disappointed by an exaggerated attention to otherwise irrelevant visitors and highlighting only three former guides as achievers, when most have done very well. Everyone enjoyed getting together, having a buffet dinner with more tolerated, yet unheard, speeches and fun sketches. Special tributes went to the organizers in DPI, whose three former heads attended: Therese Sevigny, Eugene Wyzner, and Samir Sanbar attended. A special effort was made by the head of the guided tour unit, Hellene Hoedl, who maintained her smile despite pressing headlines, assisted by welcoming in volunteers. An Excellent Performance.