Kofi Annan’s message of hope

Richard Branson looking serious
Image by Molly Choma
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 26 August 2018

It has been very moving seeing so many wonderful tributes to Kofi Annan in the days since the world lost one of its giants. Reading the posts from people across the world, one of Kofi’s simple truths that is resonating with a lot of people is about one of his guiding principles: hope.

“We need to keep hope alive and strive to do better.”

Richard Branson speaks to Kofi Annan
Image from Corinna Tannian Photography

I had the privilege of spending time with Kofi in South Africa recently to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s centenary and The Elders’ Walk Together campaign. As always, I was struck by how hopeful Kofi was about the future, despite dedicating his life to helping to change some of the worst conflicts and crises in the world.

Richard, Joan, and Sam Branson standing with a group including Barack Obama, Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson
Image from Greg Rose

Another person who famously prescribes to the power of hope is President Obama. During the trip to Johannesburg we watched his wonderful Nelson Mandela Lecture. It was a powerful, wide-ranging speech in which he addressed the many challenges facing the world today, from climate change to the rise of authoritarianism. But it was also a hopeful message, in which he celebrated Madiba’s vision for a brighter, more purposeful, more inclusive world.

Later, it was an honour to join a meeting between President Obama and The Elders, from which these photos are taken. Looking at them now, it feels even more meaningful. It’s heartening to look back on these two great moral leaders sharing a smile, discussing issues dear to their hearts, and remembering Madiba.

Now, it makes me think of another quote, from Madiba himself: “Hope is a powerful weapon.”