15 DECEMBER 2012


After a delay by Hurricane Sandy, a 60th anniversary commemoration of UN Guided Tours was opened by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. At the main lobby of the General Assembly Hall, varied generations of guides hugged, embraced and celebrated joint accomplishments.

The newest blended with the oldest in solidarity and understanding of what it was about. Tour Guides are the main face of the U.N. to the General Public.

Millions of visitors over the years do not meet senior Secretariat staff or members of delegations. Their main image about the Organization is drawn from their encounter with the young guide who takes them around main landmarks and responds to their questions.

Many of those who had initially arranged to participate from abroad could not make it. Airplane rescheduled flights and a belated indication of the new date did not allow a gathering as large as initially expected. But the spirit was there.

It was a pleasure to see how many former guides have reached higher positions. The Secretary General mentioned a member of his own staff to wide applause. The DPI official who organized the event, Lena Dissin, who is now at the D-1 level, was a guide and a briefing officer who earned her rise through the ranks. Alice Kariuki, also in DPI; Maha el Bahrawi, in Office of Human Resources management; Patricia Marchisio in Peacekeeping; Rekia Soumana in Human Rights; and Hawa Diallo; among many others present reflected not only the qualified potential of former guides but also their wide range of talent serving in a variety of U.N. operations.

One of the early guides of the Fifties mentioned that there were no male colleagues at her time. A decade later a number of them arrived. One of them became a Foreign Minister of his country, another returned as his country's Permanent Representative (Finland), and a third found his way to a fashion model agency.

After opening an exhibit and an hour of social celebration, a dinner privately arranged by a committee of former guides was held at the interim Delegates Dining room, actually part of the Cafeteria until the original becomes ready early next year.

It was refreshing to witness such a gathering blend of dedicated and talented colleagues still dedicated to a joint cause despite their different ways and changing interests.

The U.N. held them together. And together they held the flag of the U.N.

UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (speaking at lectern) delivers remarks prior to opening a photo exhibit marking sixty years of Guided Tours at United Nations Headquarters.

UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Matias Lindemann (left, at lectern), the youngest Tour Guide currently serving (Class of 2011), and Abbie Krasne (Class of 1953), who served in the 1950s, share anecdotes and their experiences with attendees at the event.

UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Mr. Ban (centre, with yellow tie) and his wife, Yoo Soon-taek (centre left), pose for a group photo at the event with current Tour Guides of the Department of Public Information (DPI), along with DPI Head Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal (on Mrs. Yoo's right) and Maher Nasser (on Mr. Ban's left), Director of the DPI Outreach Diviison.