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Funeral Kindles Recollections Of Kofi Anna

September 13, 2018 06:37 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- On Thursday, Ghana … and the world … said goodbye to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in a full state funeral.

But years ago ... before he was a national hero at home and being hailed as an "ambassador for peace" around the world ... Annan was already making his mark right here in Minnesota.

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"My dad was the treasurer of the YMCA at that time and the group of students from Macalester, the group of international students, we're going around the state and they were talking about their culture” Steven Neiswanger remembered. “And the YMCA sponsored the group to come here to Austin and so we were lucky enough to get Kofi.”

It was March of 1961.

"I was ten at the time so I remember him fairly well,” Steve3n Neiswanger told ABC6. “He was a soft spoken, gentle person."

Kofi Annan was only in Austin for a couple of days l but he made a long-lasting impression.

“There was something about him,” Steven Neiswanger said. “We knew that he was going to achieve something in life that was fairly important because he was already trying to promote interaction between various countries and cultures.

Kofi Annan was 22 years old when he came to Austin. Two years later he would join the United Nations as an administrator at the World Health Organization.

"I believe he just wanted to help people to understand each other, to promote a more peaceful world," Steven Neiswanger said.

Kofi Annan has often been described as an "ambassador for peace”, and compared to Dr. Martin Luther King, junior.

"I think it's a fair comparison’ Steven Neiswanger said. “He wanted people to progress from the state we were in, the rather cloistered atmosphere that we lived in at that time and he wanted people to get to know other cultures and expand their tolerance and knowledge.

In December of 1997, Kofi Annan was elected Secretary General of the United Nations.

"We stayed in touch with him from time to time" Steven remembered of his one-time house guest. “We felt that he would probably do something fairly noticeable later in life, and he did."

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