THE CITIZEN for Social Responsibility 

    a non-profit corporation

    Founded   April  2000



SPRING 2011 issue
SPRING 2009 Issue
SPRING 2008 Issue
WINTER 2007 Issue
SUMMER 2007 Issue
DECEMBER 2005 · OCTOBER 2005 · AUGUST 2005  · JUNE 2005 · APRIL 2005 · FEBRUARY 2005 · DECEMBER 2004 · NOVEMBER 2004  · OCTOBER 2004  · SEPTEMBER 2004  · AUGUST 2004  · IMAGE GALLERY
Current Events · Africa Today · Eye on Human Rights · Dispatches from Iraq · In Retrospect · Words of Inspiration · Hightower Lowdown · Trento Column · Editorial page

Click above, for articles in this issue.

DR. CHARLES HABIB MALIK, A Pioneer Remembered

     by Thomas C. Murray


Amid the pageantry and the gathering of world leaders in New York City this month, I could not help but to think back to the 1950’s when I first met Charles H. Malik, a man who played a major role in the shaping of the United Nations. He would become my friend and mentor, and it would be from a master diplomat that I would receive many lessons regarding the UN.


After completing his college studies in his native Beirut, Lebanon, he aspired to the field of education and became a professor of philosophy at the American University of Beirut. Recognizing his talents, the newly- created Lebanese government appointed him to represent his country in San Francisco for the UN Charter signing ceremony in April 1945.


In those fledgling years of the United Nations, Malik worked on the Human Rights Commission, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and in 1948 would help craft the International Declaration of Human Rights.  He succeeded the former “first lady” as the chairman of that important Commission, and he later became President of the UN’s Economic and Social Council.


With such diplomatic successes behind him, his country called upon him to serve as its Ambassador to the United States, and later as its Foreign Minister.  Known as the “philosopher” in academic circles, his mettle would be put to the test in 1958 when President Nasser of the United Arab Republic (UAR) had hopes of incorporating pro-Western, Lebanon into the UAR. Toward that end, Syria, a member state of the UAR, proceeded to send guerillas over its border into Lebanon with the hopes of toppling its pro-Western government. That fate seemed inevitable.


Leaving Lebanon in early June under a cloak of secrecy, Foreign Minister Charles Malik flew to New York where he would  present his case before the Security Council (SC), the UN organ that considers threats to world peace. The forces of communism, as well as the UAR, did not want the seasoned diplomat to succeed.


At the time, I was working my way through college at the Harvard Club (HC) of New York City and had gotten to know Dr. Malik during his many stays at the Club. A bond developed between myself and the diplomat, and in time, I looked to him as a mentor, for he too, worked to pay for his post-graduate work at Harvard University.  He took an interest in me and often inquired about my progress at Iona College.


It looked like that Lebanon’s Foreign Minister would present his case at an emergency session of the Security Council on Thursday, June 5th. I wanted to see my mentor in action and waited on a long line to attend the June 5th session. I made it and was seated in the visitors’ gallery of the Council chambers, when the President of the SC announced that the debate had been deferred for one day. I still remember how frustrated I felt on hearing this.


On Friday, June 6th, I arrived at the Harvard Club in mid-afternoon, hoping to ask Dr. Malik to issue a pass so that I might be able to bypass the long lines. I mustered up enough courage and presented my request to the busy diplomat. Before I knew it, I was heading off with Dr. Malik and his entourage to the UN , replete with a police escort. Yes, I was there on the floor of the SC, right behind the Lebanese delegation, when Dr. Malik accused the UAR of “massive, illegal, and unprovoked intervention in the internal affairs of Lebanon.” For this future history teacher, it was a day to remember.


After two weeks of debate, the SC voted to send an observation team into Lebanon. It didn’t do much good, as Syrian guerillas circumvented the UN observers and continued to cross over the border into Lebanon. A very real threat of destabilizing this bulwark of democracy in the Mid-east was present. The Lebanese government requested U.S. assistance and on July 14th, Dr. Malik met with U.S. Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles in Washington, D.C. and was advised him that the president of the U.S. would help Lebanon. He did. On July 15, U.S. Marines landed in Lebanon for the purpose of peacekeeping – the Eisenhower Doctrine had now been implemented. Unfortunately, their presence, was just that, a presence, and an ineffective one, at that. Things got so bad that a rare emergency session of the UN General Assembly (GA) was held in mid-August. The Russian bear was snarling and practicing Soviet style “brinksmanship.” President Eisenhower came up from Washington to address the General Assembly. War drums were beating and the world was watching.


The tension was defused when Dr. Malik met with representatives of nine other Arab nations, including the UAR, in a suite at the Hotel Pierre. The Lebanese diplomat pleaded with the delegates not to draw the rest of the world into an Arab-related problem, but rather, try of resolve it within their “own house.” A resolution was drafted at the hotel meeting, and all ten Arab countries signed on. It was officially proposed to the General Assembly on August 22nd and ratified the same day. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Marines and the UN observers would be withdrawn from Lebanon. These behind the scenes maneuvers, on Dr. Malik’s part, showed his magnanimity as a diplomat and his resolve in preserving world peace. He was ready for his next role on the world stage.


That came a month later when Charles Malik was elected President of the UN General Assembly, besting his opponent by a 45-31 vote, in one of the most hotly contested elections in the history of the UN. He invited me to attend the opening session of the GA but I declined, stating that second Tuesday in September was my first day of teaching at Essex Catholic High School in Newark. My fellow educator understood. On September 23rd, I received the following message in a telegram he sent to me at the Harvard Club:

We must all dedicate ourselves anew to the cause of peace with justice throughout the world.

On December 8th, Dr Malik received a delegation of some thirty students from Essex Catholic High School in a conference room in the executive area of the 38th floor. He had fallen behind schedule and as a result we waited about a half an hour. In the meantime, a couple of the students had to use the restroom, and while walking down the corridor, met Eleanor Roosevelt, engaging her briefly in conversation. I would have given my right arm to meet her. Today, I consider her the greatest woman of the twentieth century.

The students listened attentively as Dr. Malik gave us a briefing and, in turn, we presented him with a peace plaque on behalf of our school.

On February 4, 1959, I arranged for Dr. Malik to visit my alma mater, Iona College in New Rochelle, where he delivered his “Limitations and Possibilities of the United Nations” speech, considered by many to be one of the most objective speeches ever delivered by a high- ranking UN leader. An honorary degree was conferred upon him at the convocation, one of sixty that he received during his lifetime.

During his term as GA president, I met twice with him on social occasions – once for the circus with his wife, Eva, and son Habib; the second for dinner the following week. Upon finishing off his term, Dr. Malik returned to the field of education, serving as a visiting professor at Dartmouth and the American University in Washington, D.C.

In a small way, I have tried to keep his legacy alive. While moderator of the Essex Catholic High School’s “Social Science Federation,” a student club, I created the “Dr. Charles H. Malik Citation,” which was awarded, only when merited, to an outstanding member of the Federation. I continued the tradition when I moved down to Mater Dei High School in the bay-shore area of New Jersey.

Although Charles H. Malik passed away in 1987, his legacy lives on. While many problems still plaque the UN, we are reminded by his Iona speech; that the UN is not a perfect organization, it is only as strong as its members (at present 191) want it to be--within the scope of its Charter. Some people expect too much, others, too little from the world body. However, it’s like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). At times, I deplore some of the clients, the ACLU represents. Nonetheless, I think it is best to have an organization that is devoted to protecting our Constitutional guarantees rather than not to have one at all. The same may be said of the UN. Something is certainly better than nothing!


The world is definitely a better place today because of the UN, and for that, we must never forget, one of its courageous pioneers, Dr. Charles Habib Malik.



(C) 2005, by Thomas C. Murray, All Rights Reserved.                                                                     

This essay includes excerpts from Chapter 10, “The Bellhop and the Diplomat,” of Just a Kid from Hell’s Kitchen:  A Memoir  (not yet published).



Thomas C. Murray is a Director of THE CITIZEN for Social Responsibility. He recently published a book of poetry, "The Spirit of '69", and is currently completing an autobiography, to be published in 2006. T.C. Murray can be reached at

Posted  October 05, 2005

URL:                     SM 2000-2011                        


You are here: HOME page-OLDER ISSUES-OCTOBER 2005-In Retrospect

Previous : Dispatches from Iraq Next : Words of Inspiration