News — January 01, 2000
Kofi Annan Joined Junior Chamber in College
Kofi Annan, back row, third from right, with fellow Macalester College Junior Chamber members in 1960 (photo courtesy of Macalester College). Kofi Annan was born in 1938 in Ghana. He first left Africa in 1959 to attend the small, internationally-o
Kofi Annan, back row, third from right, with fellow Macalester College Junior Chamber members in 1960 (photo courtesy of Macalester College). Kofi Annan was born in 1938 in Ghana. He first left Africa in 1959 to attend the small, internationally-oriented Macalester College on a Ford Foundation fellowship. Active in campus life, he joined the soccer and track teams, the international students club, and the college’s Junior Chamber chapter. At that time, Junior Chamber sponsored Mantoux tests (for tuberculosis), carnival booths, and a banquet for students majoring in business. His Junior Chamber involvement, coupled with his participation in speech and debate competitions, reflected a clear interest in and capacity for leadership. Friends believed he would return to his country and become a prominent citizen there. Instead, Annan became a lifelong international civil servant, and the first to rise from within the ranks of the United Nations to become secretary general. Armed with an economics degree from Macalester College (Minnesota, U.S.A.), a master’s degree in management from the Massachussets Institute of Technology, studies at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, and 40 years of service rendered to the United Nations in various capacities, Kofi Annan probably relies most heavily on an asset that he acquired neither in the classroom nor on the job: his humble and serene temperament. The U.N.’s first black African secretary general, Annan was the heavily favored choice for the U.N.’s top post when he was appointed in December 1996, though at the time, some critics complained that he wasn’t tough enough for the job. A soft-spoken man with a self-deprecating manner and an aversion for confrontation, Annan may be a masterful diplomat simply because he lacks the bullying tendencies traditionally ascribed to strong leaders. The 63-year-old Ghanaian silenced many critics after the successful mission to Baghdad. Those closest to him claim that Annan’s effectiveness as a mediator can be attributed to his calm disposition, self-restraint, willingness to listen and understand, and an acute awareness of personal dignity—all qualities that are prized in his native Ghana. The first leader elected from the ranks of United Nations staff, he was the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations when he was selected for the top job.