MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The 2013-14 season of the David C. Hardesty, Jr. Festival of Ideas is underway. The first speaker in the series, Former Governor of New Mexico and five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bill Richardson addressed a crowd of students and faculty at the Erikson Alumni Center on WVU’s campus on Monday. Richardson is known for his wide-ranging experience as New Mexico’s governor, a member of the U.S. Congress, Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Richardson’s talk covered a wide range of subjects from the United Nations to ethics, Syria and domestic politics. Richardson also recalled many of his experiences in his wide and varied political career, such as how he had been to West Virginia as a U.S. Congressman during their annual retreats to the Greenbrier.
“Congressmen actually got together and we talked, and our families got together and we socialized. Something they don’t do now. We worked things out by talking,” he said about those visits.
His main focus was on the U.N. however. He noted his belief that countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America need to have a greater voice in the U.N. and that the organization is becoming increasingly relevant in big-power politics.
“And the U.N. is really a body of third world countries. It’s not the U.S., it’s not the big five of the security council, Russia, China, Britain, France and the U.S. It’s a forum for the third world,” he said.
And, he says, the U.N. is no longer the same organization that was formed after World War II.
“They’re talking about fair wages, they’re talking about processes, due processes of business, the human rights. They’re talking about avoiding child labor, they’re talking about international labor rights, about the ability of men and women to earn a decent wage and work under safe conditions.”
Richardson also touched on what he sees as the biggest problem facing the world.
“The biggest problem in the world today, I believe, of all the multi-national multi-lateral problems is the cases of religious strife and terrorism,” he said.
And he spoke about domestic issues, particularly one that he acknowledged is of concern to West Virginians.
“I think we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I think the president is right to do it by executive order.”
But his final piece of advice focused on the U.N. and a global perspective.
“Give the U.N. a chance, it’s useful. Give the international community the credit that it’s due when it uses the U.N. or when the U.N. takes a lead on these issues.”