Tag Archives: U Thant

Aye Aye Thant: Meet, Greet, Celebrate World Peace Day

Aye Aye Thant is a longtime Westport resident — and the daughter of former UN Secretary General U Thant. She writes:

This Thursday (September 23, 6 p.m.), the United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut celebrates the International Day of Peace at a “Meet, Greet, and Celebrate” event. at the Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach.

The event — also known as World Peace Day — was established in 1981 by a unanimous UN resolution. It is observed around the world each year tomorrow (September 21).

Today, in the aftermath of COVID-19, there is another pandemic: hunger. The World Bank has estimated that COVID has pushed as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 a day).

We need extraordinary efforts and global cooperation to tackle and deal with today’s challenges. With that goal, the United Nations has dedicated this year’s Peace Day to the theme “recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable world.”

The UN “invites all nations to celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic and as we recover.”

Each year as Peace Day approaches, I reflect on my father’s vision for peace. He said: “Peace is dependent, to a large extent on the achievement of social progress and a higher standard of living. To have lasting peace, there has to be economic and social advancement for all people, and a recognition of the need to bring down the number of human beings living in conditions of poverty, disease, hunger and illiteracy.”

I moved to Westport 20 years ago. I liked to tell Ruth Steinkraus Cohen, the founder of our UNA –USA Southwestern Connecticut Chapter. that I came here because I learned about the activities of the chapter and the International Hospitality Committee of Fairfield County. She loved that.

I was a regular at Wednesday weekly meetings at her home, and was active in all activities of the organization. Ruth was an inspirational figure to many of us, and touched so many lives as a mentor and a friend.

Several years ago Aye Aye Thant spoke at Town Hall, for Westport’s United Nations Day ceremony. 

She wrote, “Westport s a port where one meets the world.” She founded jUNe Day. Westport hosted 500 United Nations staff for a day of fun and sun with the mission of fostering friendship between the people of the UN, the international community, and the American people as hosts.

She believed that it would help to build a bridge between cultures and, in turn, develop an understanding and respect of our differences while taking pride in our own cultures. In recognition of her vision, the bridge crossing the Saugatuck River on Post Road is named in her honor.

After Ruth passed away in May 2002, I was honored to serve as president of the chapter. As Ruth wrote, “As we become better informed about the UN and develop a better understanding of the practical problems involved in building a world community of nations, we will become more UN-minded in our political activity and in the long run will help strengthen public opinion and political support for the United Nations, which after all, is a key element of US foreign policy.”

By understanding the work of the UN, especially in the economic and social sectors, we recognize the interdependence of our existence and how strong multilateral cooperation is needed to achieve peace.

I hope you will join us on September 23, and become members of the UNA-USA to learn more about the role of the UN in advancing peace in the world.

Through a small measure, we shall contribute toward a larger goal: peace for all!


The Burma Road Leads To Westport

The “06880” tagline reads “Where Westport Meets the World.”

And — though Myanmar lies half a world a way from Westport — our connections are so close, it might as well be next door.

The new ambassador to Myanmar — the 1st in 22 years — is Derek Mitchell. His brother Jeff moved here in 1993. Derek comes often to watch his nephew Zach play Staples football and run indoor track (he captained the team to a state championship). The ambassador will be here next month too, for Zach’s graduation. (As Derek often does, he’ll walk his red poodle in Winslow Park.)

The swearing-in ceremony for Special Representative Derek Mitchell, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The ambassador’s oath will be administered soon by President Obama. From left: Min Lee (Derek’s wife), Derek Mitchell, Secretary Clinton, and Eli, Zach and Jeff Mitchell of Westport.

In February Burton Levin — the most recent ambassador to Burma (1987-90) — spoke at the Westport Public Library. Jeff Mitchell was there, and helped the 2 ambassadors connect.

Perhaps the most famous Burmese person in the world is U Thant, the 3rd secretary-general of the United Nations (1961-71). His daughter Daw Aye Aye Thant is a longtime resident of Westport. She speaks frequently here, and is the founder and president of the U Thant Institute.

According to Asia Times, her Westport home is filled with beautiful indigenous tapestries and exquisite sculptured Buddhas, and photos of her father with presidents Kennedy and Johnson, plus many other world leaders.

Last fall her son, Thant Myint-U, spoke at Green’s Farms Congregational Church on key issues facing Myanmar and the rest of Southeast Asia.

Jeff Mitchell hopes to arrange for his brother, Aye Aye Thant and former Ambassador Levin to speak together here. It would be a historic event, Jeff says, and would mean that Westport “pretty much has a monopoly on the top Burma scholars in the world, outside of that country.”

Though just “wishful thinking” today, Jeff would love for Aung San Suu Kyi — the Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition politician who recently helped Myanmar transition from military rule to democracy — to come together for the event.

Meanwhile, Jeff Mitchell has started a charity organization, Partner with Myanmar. The goal is to further the development of community-based programs and projects. The focus is on arts, culture and conservation.

Its 1st project brought international attention to the Me N Ma Girls, 5 college-educated women who wrote their own songs, battled censors both on song content and how they dressed, and came from different ethnic regions. They’re on the verge of becoming the 1st Burmese band — male or female — with an international recording contract.

Up next for Mitchell: creating the 1st film from Myanmar to be release globally. With Westport’s many industry connections, that goal may not be far-fetched.

06880 meets the world in many places, and many ways. The new democracy in Myanmar is one of the most intriguing, and impressive.