Dag Hammarskjold was the second secretary of the United Nations serving from April 1953 to September 1961. In this short work, Roger Lipsey, author of Hammarskjold: A Life, delves deeply into his extraordinary life and legacy. To whet your interest, here are a few of his words, revealing his maturity of mind. No wonder John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjold "the greatest statesman of our century."

  • "No institution can become effective unless it is forced to wrestle with the problems, the conflicts, and the tribulations of real life."
  • "I do believe that dialogue is badly needed, but dialogue requires quite a few things: objectivity, a willingness to listen, and considerable restraint. Those are all human qualities. No one of them is very remarkable, but they are all called for."
  • "We must create the simple trust which alone makes human speech possible in a world where we have forgotten to talk to each other."
  • "It is when we all play safe that we create a world of the utmost insecurity. It is when we all play safe that fatality will lead us to our doom. It is 'in the dark shade of courage' alone, that the spell can be broken."
  • "Time when it is used wisely by men endowed with a sense of history and imbued by a humane and tolerant faith, can be a great healer of hate, a solvent of conflict and a bridge from fear to understanding in a measure that seems today to be beyond our reach."

In a series of memorable chapters, Lipsey charts the career and inner life of Hammarskjold on facing facts, the complicated process of negotiation, the healing power of time, perseverance, global interdependence, a world full of meaning, and the way of a statesman.

You can find more substantive material on this former Secretary General of the United Nations in our Naming the Days feature for Dag Hammaskjold Day (September 18) and in our review of Cold Case Hammarskjold about his untimely death in an airplane crash.