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Musings on the United Nations

| June 10, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant


NEW YORK — When you step-into the United Nations compound, you, legally, step off American soil.

The security shakedown is akin to boarding an airplane, but those in uniform wouldn’t be mistaken for TSA agents who sometimes seem to loiter.  These foreigners aren’t quite as stony as Customs officers, but the process has the same vibe.

Once inside, it’s welcome-to-the-1950s.  Not in an unkempt way.  Our guide explained that areas we were passing through had recently been renovated, and the “after” was deliberately reminiscent of the “before” look.  Until recently, we were told, smoking wasn’t prohibited.  Travel abroad, and you quickly realize how American “No Smoking” is.  Narrow escalators pre-date and, legally, needn’t comply with, the Americans with Disabilities Act specs we’re now accustomed to.

cookeUNOur U.N. handlers couldn’t have been more welcoming.  Our guide took us into the iconic, unoccupied Security Council chamber.  Your first instinct is to just stare…at an empty room, as though the room itself is a star.  People my age flash-back to Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the desk.  Naturally, I couldn’t resist a gag photo.  “Go right ahead,” we were told, unexpected in such a church-like setting.

“Roam around!” was also surprising to hear, after that entry routine; and when I did, murals and photographs and display items were all profound.  A pile of coins was fused into a twisted mass of metal that fateful day in Hiroshima.

Radio Row there only looked like the talk radio bullpens we’re accustomed to.  What we heard in various on-air conversations wasn’t the caricature conversation.  So much of our daily fare sounds like those classic Lite Beer commercials that always comically degenerated into a shouting match between “TASTES GREAT!” and “LESS FILLING!”

But on this day, rather than more typical verbal arm-wrestling over IRS improprieties and other durable domestic flaps we belabor lately, we were hearing about war and peace, land mines, disarmament, sustainability, people in dire circumstances, and roiling international concern about civil war in Syria.  The Big Stuff you hear more on public radio than commercial talkers.  And less “I,” “I,” “I,” “ME,” “ME,” “ME” than usual too.


See, hear, read more from consultant Holland Cooke at and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke.

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