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Potius sero quam numquam (Livius, ab urbe condita, 4, 2, 11)
 
Home / Poetry R. M. Rilke / Poetry / UN


 

 

Ubi officium, ibi patria

From far we come and every land,
Committed to a task that’s dear.
Together we endeavor hand in hand.
The time is now, the place is here.

Our motto: Ubi officium, ibi patria*.
Our home: New York, Geneva … Bosnia,
Wherever tasks must be fulfilled,
And colleagues are our second family.

And be there tension in the air,
Let’s better pause and then compare,
For others suffer, others really die.
Our office grumblings hardly qualify.

Whoever said “a refugee would want
To have our problems” knew full well:
A good sense of proportion may dispel
What lack of patience or ambition can’t.

And if a colleague hurts us once,
Extend a hand, afford a second chance.
No rancor should prevail, no grudge endure:
Through understanding we reach out and cure.

No doubt we strive for macro-peace,
Let’s also try to live in micro-peace.
Compassion and respect within the family
Surpass lip-service to humanity.

Perhaps it is far greater labor
To accept our next door neighbor,
Than to pass a resolution to embrace
Each nation, every race.

I’d rather see a peaceful swan on Lac Leman
Than all symbolic doves of peace.
Let’s strive for micro-justice now,
That macro-justice may one day allow.

And the sun will smile on us tomorrow,
Even brighter than it shines today,
If the family pursues one goal in reach:
If we only practice what we preach.

* The philosophy “ubi bene, ibi patria” (where I am well, that’s home) goes back to the Greek dramatist and comedian Aristophanes (455-385 BC). As international civil servants we substitute the idea of just feeling well (bene) with the idea of having a mission, an assignment (officium). Thus the new message is “home is where my task takes me.”

 

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