Dag Hammarskjöld (29 July 1905 – 18 September 1961) was a Swedish diplomat, the second United Nations Secretary-General, and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He oversaw U.N. responses to Cold War crises, the decolonization of Africa, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. He was killed in a plane crash while attempting to mediate the Congo Crisis.
- Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. To build for man a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just. And how can we fight for liberty if we are not free in our own minds? How can we ask others to sacrifice if we are not ready to do so?... Only in true surrender to the interest of all can we reach that strength and independence, that unity of purpose, that equity of judgment which are necessary if we are to measure up to our duty to the future, as men of a generation to whom the chance was given to build in time a world of peace.
- UN Press Release SG/360 (22 December 1953)
- The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned.
- United Nations Bulletin Vol. XVI, No. 4 (15 February 1954)
- A man of firm convictions does not ask, and does not receive, understanding from those with whom he comes into conflict. … A mature man is his own judge. In the end, his only firm support is being faithful to his own convictions. The advice of others may be welcome and valuable, but it does not free him from responsibility. Therefore, he may become very lonely.
- Address to the Swedish Academy (20 December 1954)
- The UN is not just a product of do-gooders. It is harshly real. The day will come when men will see the UN and what it means clearly. Everything will be all right — you know when? When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction, and see it as a drawing they made themselves.
- As quoted in The Times [London] (27 June 1955)
- Constant attention by a good nurse may be just as important as a major operation by a surgeon.
- As quoted in news reports (18 March 1956) and Simpson's Contemporary Quotations (1988) by James Beasley Simpson
- I never discuss discussions.
- Statement after diplomatic talks, as quoted in Look (19 September 1956)
- In a political context of the utmost significance, ["freedom from fear"] recognizes a human right which, in a broad sense, may be said to sum up the whole philosophy of human rights.
- Do we refer to the purposes of the Charter? They are expressions of universally shared ideals which cannot fail us, though we, alas, often fail them. Or do we think of the institutions of the United Nations? They are our tools. We fashioned them. We use them. It is our responsibility to remedy any flaws there may be in them.... This is a difficult lesson for both idealists and realists, though for different reasons. I suppose that, just as the first temptation of the realist is the illusion of cynicism, so the first temptation of the idealist is the illusion of Utopia.
- "An International Administrative Service", From an Address to the International Law Association at McGill University, Montreal, 30 May, 1956. Wilder Foote (Ed.), The Servant of Peace, A Selection of the Speeches and Statements of Dag Hammarskjöld, The Bodley Head, London 1962, p. 116.
- It is not the Soviet Union or indeed any other big Powers who need the United Nations for their protection. It is all the others. In this sense, the Organization is first of all their Organization and I deeply believe in the wisdom with which they will be able to use it and guide it. I shall remain in my post during the term of my office as a servant of the Organization in the interests of all those other nations, as long as they wish me to do so. In this context the representative of the Soviet Union spoke of courage. It is very easy to resign; it is not so easy to stay on. It is very easy to bow to the wish of a big power. It is another matter to resist. As is well known to all Members of this Assembly, I have done so before on many occasions and in many directions. If it is the wish of those nations who see in the Organization their best protection in the present world, I shall now do so again.
- Statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations (3 October 1960)
- You try to save a drowning man without prior authorization.
- Statement on UN Operations in Congo before the General Assembly, 17 October 1960.
- Those who invoke history will certainly be heard by history. And they will have to accept its verdict.
- On Nikita Khrushchev as quoted in The Times [London] (4 October 1960)
- The Assembly has witnessed over the last weeks how historical truth is established; once an allegation has been repeated a few times, it is no longer an allegation, it is an established fact, even if no evidence has been brought out in order to support it.
- On accusations by Nikita Khrushchev, as quoted in The Times [London] (4 October 1960)
- Setbacks in trying to realize the ideal do not prove that the ideal is at fault.
- As quoted by Rolf Edberg, Swedish Ambassador to Norway, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Hammarskjöld in Oslo, Norway (10 December 1961)
- It is when we all play safe that we create a world of 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.
- Servant of Peace : A Selection of the Speeches and Statements of Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary General of the United Nations (1962), p. 107; this has sometimes been paraphrased: It is in playing safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.
- The breaking wave and the muscle as it contracts obey the same law. Delicate line gathers the body's total strength in a bold balance. Shall my soul meet so severe a curve, journeying on its way to form?
- Statement inspired by the work of British sculptor Barbara Hepworth, quoted in The Christian Science Monitor (18 Jun 1964)
- It is a little bit humiliating when I have to say that Chou En-lai to me appears as the most superior brain I have so far met in the field of foreign politics... so much more dangerous than you imagine because he is so much better a man than you have ever admitted.
- In a letter to a friend, as quoted in Hammarskjöld (1972) by Brian Urquhart
- The big, shoe-thumping fellow continues as a dark thunderhead to threaten all unrepentant non-Communists with hail and thunder.
- On Nikita Kruschev, in a letter to a friend, as quoted in Hammarskjöld (1972) by Brian Urquhart
- Is life so wretched? Isn't it rather your hands which are too small, your vision which is muddled? You are the one who must grow up.
- As quoted in Know Your Limits — Then Ignore Them (2000) by John Mason
- If even dying is to be made a social function, then, grant me the favor of sneaking out on tiptoe without disturbing the party.
- As quoted in As I Journey On : Meditations for Those Facing Death (2000) by Sharon Dardis and Cindy Rogers
- It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.
- As quoted in Living in Grace : The Shift to Spiritual Perception (2002) by Beca Lewis, p. 158
- The more faithfully you listen to the voices within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside.
- As quoted in Sacred Seasonings (2003) by Sherri Purdom
- Journal entries by Hammarskjöld, published in 1964 · Excerpts online
- Give me a pure heart that I may see Thee.
A humble heart that I may hear Thee,
A heart of love that I may serve Thee,
A heart of faith that I may abide in Thee.
- A task becomes a duty from the moment you suspect it to be an essential part of that integrity which alone entitles a man to assume responsibility.
- Destiny is something not be to desired and not to be avoided. A mystery not contrary to reason, for it implies that the world, and the course of human history, have meaning.
- Friendship needs no words — it is solitude delivered from the anguish of loneliness.
- Variant translation: Friendship needs no words — it is a loneliness relieved of the anguish of loneliness.
- For all that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.
- Variant translation: For all that has been — thanks. For all that will be — yes.
- Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean.
- God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.
- He who has surrendered himself to it knows that the Way ends on the Cross — even when it is leading him through the jubilation of Gennesaret or the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.
- I believe that we should die with decency so that at least decency will survive.
- I don't know Who — or what — put the question, I don't know when it was put. I don't even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone — or Something — and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.
- In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.
- In the faith which is "God's marriage to the soul", you are one in God, and God is wholly in you, just as, for you, He is wholly in all you meet. With this faith, in prayer you descend into yourself to meet the other.
- In the last analysis it is our conception of death which decides our answers to all the questions life puts to us … Hence too the necessity of preparing for it.
- Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible — not to have run away.
- Life yields only to the conqueror. Never accept what can be gained by giving in. You will be living off stolen goods, and your muscles will atrophy.
- The myths have always condemned those who "looked back." Condemned them, whatever the paradise may have been which they were leaving. Hence this shadow over each departure from your decision
- Maturity: among other things, the unclouded happiness of the child at play, who takes it for granted that he is at one with his play-mates.
- Never, "for the sake of peace and quiet," deny your own experience or convictions.
- Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road.
- Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.
- Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.
- Respect for the word is the first commandment in the discipline by which a man can be educated to maturity — intellectual, emotional, and moral.
Respect for the word — to employ it with scrupulous care and in incorruptible heartfelt love of truth — is essential if there is to be any growth in a society or in the human race.
To misuse the word is to show contempt for man. It undermines the bridges and poisons the wells. It causes Man to regress down the long path of his evolution.
"But I say unto you, that every idle word that men speak..."
- The longest journey
Is the journey inwards.
Of him who has chosen his destiny,
Who has started upon his quest
For the source of his being.
- Variant translation: The longest journey is the journey inward, for he who has chosen his destiny has started upon his quest for the source of his being.
- The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others.
- There is a point at which everything becomes simple and there is no longer any question of choice, because all you have staked will be lost if you look back. Life's point of no return.
- "To forgive oneself"—? No, that doesn't work: we have to be forgiven. But we can only believe this is possible if we ourselves can forgive.
- To love life and men as God loves them —
for the sake of
their infinite possibilities,
to wait like Him,
to judge like Him,
without passing judgment,
to obey the order when it is given
and never look back.
- We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.
- What makes loneliness an anguish
Is not that I have no one to share my burden,
- I have only my own burden to bear.
- You are not the oil, you are not the air — merely the point of combustion, the flash-point where the light is born. You are merely the lens in the beam. You can only receive, give, and possess the light as the lens does. If you seek yourself, you rob the lens of its transparency. You will know life and be acknowledged by it according to your degree of transparency — your capacity, that is, to vanish as an end and remain purely as a means.
- Your body must become familiar with its death — in all its possible forms and degrees — as a self-evident, imminent, and emotionally neutral step on the way towards the goal you have found worthy of your life.
- Your cravings as a human animal do not become a prayer just because it is God whom you ask to attend to them.
- It is easy to be nice, even to an enemy — from lack of character.
Quotes about Hammarskjöld
- It will not surprise you to hear that Dag Hammarskjöld is a figure of great importance for me — as he must be for any Secretary-General. His life and his death, his words and his action, have done more to shape public expectations of the office, and indeed of the Organisation, than those of any other man or woman in its history.
His wisdom and his modesty, his unimpeachable integrity and single-minded devotion to duty, have set a standard for all servants of the international community — and especially, of course for his successors — which is simply impossible to live up to. There can be no better rule of thumb for a Secretary-General, as he approaches each new challenge or crisis, than to ask himself, “how would Hammarskjöld have handled this?”
- I humbly accept the Centennial Nobel Peace Prize. Forty years ago today, the Prize for 1961 was awarded for the first time to a Secretary-General of the United Nations — posthumously, because Dag Hammarskjöld had already given his life for peace in Central Africa. And on the same day, the Prize for 1960 was awarded for the first time to an African — Albert Luthuli, one of the earliest leaders of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. For me, as a young African beginning his career in the United Nations a few months later, those two men set a standard that I have sought to follow throughout my working life.
- He would remind us how man once organized himself in families, how families joined together in tribes and villages, and how tribes and villages developed into peoples and nations. But the nation could not be the end of such development. In the Charter of the United Nations he saw a guide to what he called an organized international community.
With an intensity that grew stronger each year, he stressed in his annual reports to the General Assembly that the United Nations had to be shaped into a dynamic instrument in the service of development. In his last report, in a tone of voice penetrating because of its very restraint, he confronted those member states which were clinging to "the time-honored philosophy of sovereign national states in armed competition, of which the most that may be expected is that they achieve a peaceful coexistence". This philosophy did not meet the needs of a world of ever increasing interdependence, where nations have at their disposal armaments of hitherto unknown destructive strength. The United Nations must open up ways to more developed forms of international cooperation.
- Rolf Edberg, Swedish Ambassador to Norway, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Hammarskjöld in Oslo, Norway (10 December 1961)
- He has a physical stamina unique in the world, a man who night after night has gone with one or two hours of sleep and worked all day intelligently and devotedly.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, as quoted in Studia Mystica Vol. XVI, No. 1 (1995)
- We meet in an hour of grief and challenge. Dag Hammarskjold is dead. But the United Nations lives. His tragedy is deep in our hearts, but the task for which he died is at the top of our agenda. A noble servant of peace is gone. But the quest for peace lies before us.
The problem is not the death of one man — the problem is the life of this organization. It will either grow to meet the challenges of our age, or it will be gone with the wind, without influence, without force, without respect. Were we to let it die, to enfeeble its vigor, to cripple its powers, we would condemn our future. For in the development of this organization rests the only true alternative to war — and war appeals no longer as a rational alternative. Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer concern the great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by wind and water and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind.
So let us here resolve that Dag Hammarskjold did not live, or die, in vain. Let us call a truce to terror. Let us invoke the blessings of peace. And as we build an international capacity to keep peace, let us join in dismantling the national capacity to wage war.
- I realise now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.
- John F. Kennedy, during a meeting with an associate of Hammarskjöld, quoted in the Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture given by Sture Linnér (15 October 2007)
- It was in the cause of his activities in the interest of peace that the late Dag Hammarskjöld lost his life. Of his work a great deal has been written, but I wish to take this opportunity to say how much I regret that he is not with us to receive the encouragement of this service he has rendered mankind. … How many times his decisions helped to avert a world catastrophe will never be known. But there are many of such occasions, I am sure. But there can be no doubt that he steered the United Nations through one of the most difficult phases in its history. His absence from our midst today should be an enduring lesson for all peace-lovers, and a challenge to the nations of the world to eliminate those conditions in Africa, nay, anywhere, which brought about the tragic and untimely end to his life. This, the devoted Chief Executive of the world.
- Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General: the official website of the UN
- Biography at the official Nobel Prize site
- Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation
- Review : "Markings - the spiritual diary of Dag Hammarskjöld"
- "Dag Hammarskjöld and the 21st century" by Kofi Annan; The Fourth Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture at Uppsala University (6 September 2001)