Former UN Senior Diplomat Ramu Damodaran speaks to Lehigh students in Linderman Library on Aug. 31. Damodaran addressed several of the UN's global perspectives. (Pengfei Lu/BW Staff)

A ‘future undetermined’: UN diplomat addresses Lehigh students


Lehigh hosted Ramu Damodaran, a former UN diplomat, for a keynote address on Aug. 31 regarding the future of the UN and world community.

The event was coordinated by Lehigh’s Office of Fellowship Advising and UN Programs and involved other faculty, staff and students on campus. 

Bill Hunter, the Director of the Office of Fellowship Advising and UN Programs, said he was thrilled to have a UN speaker on campus. 

“Mr. Damodaran is the architect of the world’s largest higher education association, the United Nations Academic Impact, and Lehigh is proud to be an active member,” Hunter said. “He’s one of the most eloquent speakers I have ever heard, and his message of harmony as a pathway forward during these tumultuous times really resonated with me.”

Former UN Senior Diplomat Ramu Damodaran speaks to Lehigh students in Linderman Library on Aug. 31. Damodaran addressed several of the UN’s global perspectives. (Pengfei Lu/BW Staff)

According to a biographical summary by the UN Associations of New York, Damodaran joined the UN Department of Global Communications in 1996 as Chief of Partnerships and Public Engagement but saw many other roles in the UN, including assignments in the Department of Special Political Questions and Peacekeeping and the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. 

Speechwriting, advising publications and overseeing relationships with various relevant communities were only some of his responsibilities cited.

Damodaran finished his time at the UN in May 2021.

Damodaran worked for the Indian Foreign Service before joining the UN, eventually reaching the role of ambassador. He has an extensive background in media and communications, working much of his early career in journalistic roles. His work in this field earned him the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Award, which celebrates exemplary journalistic work from its member organizations.

The main point of the keynote was the purpose and power of education. 

To him, education not only has the power to help us advance our knowledge but also to unify us.

Damodaran said he believes education preserves three main pillars the world needs most: the awareness of a global identity, the integrity of global harmony and ensuring harmony is based on inclusion.

“So we have a future — this future undetermined,” Damodaran said. 

He said the term “undetermined” means the future is unknown, but also there is a possibility for students in the room to mold that future.

In 2004, Lehigh became the sixth university in the world to be recognized with NGO status by the UN, giving the university “rare access to the world’s largest intergovernmental organization.”

“At the United Nations, if there was a word that symbolizes one institution, one university, which triggers a resonance in the words of everyone who hears it, that is Lehigh,” Damodaran said.

Emma Hartmann, ‘23, is a UN Youth Representative for the Centre for Women Studies and Intervention. She was one of the students in attendance.

She said the speech made her contemplate the idea of “global citizenry” and its likelihood of having substantial impact.

“I think this idea is especially hard to put faith into in the current U.S. political climate that is so divided,” Hartmann said. “I think it’s hard to imagine coming together as a global community when it doesn’t seem like we can currently even come together as a nation.”

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

Leave A Reply