When Oklahoma Vied to be the Home of the United Nations

The chairman of the delegation from Brazil signs the UN Charter at the
Veterans’ War Memorial Building in San Francisco on June 26, 1945.

In 1945, as a permanent global organization for collective security was rising, forward-thinking Oklahomans hoped to make our state the center of the new world.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. We’re helping to celebrate this anniversary by remembering the history of the nascent UN from its earliest days in World War Two.

Seventy years ago today — June 28, 2015 — the United States Senate ratified the United Nations Charter by a vote of 89 to 2. This followed years of discussions by the wartime allies about the need for a permanent organization to enforce a lasting peace in the world.

Oklahoma Governor Robert S. Kerr
in 1945. In his State of the State
Address, he said: “Now that we are
beginning to turn our eyes to the
winning of the peace…. Civilization
will have to be rebuilt on a more
enduring basis.”

As early as 1942, representatives of 26 nations met in Washington, DC, to sign the Declaration of the United Nations endorsing the Atlantic Charter. The United Nations pledged to use their full resources against the Axis powers.

(The flags of those 26 nations are represented on the cover of our annual report, “In Larger Freedom” (pdf)).

Throughout the years of the second world war, discussions continued about forming a permanent organization for collective security. In 1943, world leaders met in Quebec to pursue this subject. Talks continued in Dumbarton Oaks (1944) and San Francisco (Apri – June, 1945).

By the time the Charter was ready to be signed in 1945, there was intense interest in the location of the future UN headquarters. Many observers realized that the location of the UN General Assembly and Secretariat would have great importance as a “world capital” city — not just a headquarters building.

The McAlester Democrat newspaper told its readers:

“This new or future city of such world-wide importance will be a continuous world’s
fair, and the magnitude and importance which it will display and have over world affairs
is hardly possible for the mind to conceive at this time.”

Source materials for this article are from
Charlene Mires, “Capital of the World:
The Race to Host the United Nations,”
New York University Press, 2013

Oklahoma Representative Ben P. Choate — a state representative from Pittsburg County — was fascinated by the idea of locating the UN Headquarters in Oklahoma.

Rep. Choate’s personal history was rooted in Tuskahoma, where the historic capital of the Choctaw Nation stands. In 1945, he launched an energetic campaign to locate the UN Headquarters in Tuskahoma.

After consulting with Will Durant, the Choctaw chief, Rep. Choate wrote persuasive letters to Governor Kerr, to Oklahoma’s representatives in Congress, and to President Harry Truman.

As described in “Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations,” Rep. Choate:

“…Extolled the merits of Oklahoma climate and geography, and he imagined that air transportation would make Tuskahoma as accessible as any other place on the planet.”

Additionally, he called attention to the symbolic message that would be communicated by locating the UN in a place known for the history of its indigenous people.

The UN Headquarters Building
in New York City. The UN
hosted the first World Conference
on Indigenous Peoples here
in September, 2014.

Rep. Choate wrote in October, 1945:

“Since the prime motive of the [United Nations] was for the protection and help to the minority nations or races, no more fitting and timely gesture could be made than by placing the World Capital here at a place formerly used as the seat of a Government of a minority Nation here in our country.”

Charlene Mires, author of “Capital of the World,” noted:

“Choate’s promotion of Tuskahoma reflected the growing global consciousness of the common concerns of colonized people — whether Native Americans in Oklahoma or peoples in Asia and Africa — seeking freedom from European empires. For many, the United Nations represented hope for a more equitable future.”

For an instant in time, Rep. Choate’s proposal caught the imagination of forward-thinking Oklahomans.

Methodist Central Hall in
London (Westminster) hosted
the first meeting of the United
Nations General Assembly
in January, 1946.

Governor Robert S. Kerr’s economic development agency of that era was the Oklahoma Planning and Resources Board, and it embraced Rep. Choate’s proposal as an opportunity to promote an economic revival in southeast Oklahoma. The agency boosted the campaign by drawing maps for the United Nations and by developing a promotional brochure to send to London (where the first meeting of the UN General Assembly was held).

The chamber of commerce in McAlester also supported the Tuskahoma campaign.

As it turned out, the idea of placing the UN Headquarters in Tuskahoma never achieved the success that was hoped for. (A similar campaign for Claremore also failed). New York City ultimately became the hub for UN operations around the world, supported by UN offices in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi.

Even so, this brief episode in our state’s history helps to illustrate the keen interest that Oklahomans had — and continue to have — in the mission and purpose of the United Nations.

The old Choctaw Capitol building
in Tuskahoma, where Rep. Choate
wanted the United Nations head-
quarters to be located.

Over the years, many great Oklahomans have served America in the United Nations — including Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Secretary of State Hannah D. Atkins, and University of Central Oklahoma President Don Betz.

The people of Oklahoma have a continuing appreciation for the goals and values of the United Nations. We are among the 87 percent of Americans who agree that it is important for the United States to maintain an active role within the United Nations.

The members of the UN Association in Oklahoma are proud to support these noble sentiments.

Are you a member yet?

The UN works! Peace is being restored to conflict zones. Child mortality rates are falling. The UN is making important contributions to our understanding of climate change and sustainable development. The UN is at the heart of the global movement to promote a world-wide culture of peace. 

Join us today.

www.unausa.org/membership

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Motion to Amend

Here’s an update on House Bill 1412, the Anti-UN bill that is pending action in the Oklahoma Legislature.

I have asked Senator Patrick Anderson, the Senate co-author of the bill, to consider an amendment. 

The amendment is in the form of an addition to the bill as introduced. The purpose is two-fold: (1) To provide some prudent exceptions to the prohibition stated in Paragraph 1.C; and (2) To provide a definition of the term “nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations.”

Senator Anderson has replied positively to this suggestion. An email reply from his executive assistant indicates that this suggested change has been submitted to the staff of the Senate Energy Committee “…so that a committee amendment can be prepared.”

The complete text of the proposed addition is given below.

If this amendment is adopted by the committee, it will go a long way toward addressing some of our most basic concerns about HB 1412. It won’t solve all of the problems with the proposed new law. (In fact, some very fundamental flaws will remain in the proposed legislation). But, this revision will help to safeguard public access to important knowledge resources of the United Nations.

Thanks,

Bill Bryant
President, OKC Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA

***
Existing Language in Paragraph 1.C of House Bill 1412 …

C. Since the United Nations has accredited or enlisted numerous nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations to assist in the implementation of its policies relative to United Nations Agenda 21/Sustainable Development around the world, the state and all political subdivisions of the state shall not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, receive funds contracting services or give financial aid to or from any nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations.

***
Suggested Additions to HB 1412 …

D. Recognizing the fundamental state interest in promoting the unrestricted availability of knowledge resources, the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to the acquisition of books, journals, articles, audiovisual resources, and/or data sets in printed or electronic form by any public library.

E.  Respectful of the principle of intellectual freedom, and honoring the right of all people to receive and impart information and ideas regardless of frontiers, the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to any educational institution (public school, community college, state university, career tech school, etc.).

F. Acknowledging that the public health research and data of the World Health Organization (a UN agency) may provide valuable information to the Oklahoma Department of Health and to local health departments, the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to any state agency nor to any political subdivision of the state which has a public health focus or any mission related to disease control, delivery of vaccines, and/or the treatment of chronic or infectious diseases.

G. Cognizant of the important reports, data, and standards that are published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (a specialized agency of the United Nations), the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission nor to any state agency or political subdivision engaged in activities designed to increase the safety of civil and/or commercial aviation.

H. Mindful that the people of Oklahoma are subject to the harmful effects of extreme weather (floods, droughts, severe storms, etc.), and recognizing the value of data published by the World Meteorological Organization (a UN agency), the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, nor to any state agency or political subdivision engaged in activities related to the prediction and/or mitigation of extreme weather events.

I. Proud of our state’s reputation as a major center of agricultural production, and desiring to protect our access to the incomparable data of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food & Forestry nor to any state agency or political subdivision engaged in activities designed to protect the agriculture, aquaculture, and/or natural resources of our state.

J. Wishing to support Oklahoma businesses engaged in the export of goods and services, and recognizing the need for accurate and reliable information about foreign markets, the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce nor to any political subdivision of the state which is engaged in activities designed to promote economic development.

K. Understanding that international tourism is a growing industry and hopeful of further developing Oklahoma as a travel destination, the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department with regard to exchanges with UNESCO (the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization).

L. Troubled by the profound problem of human trafficking, a crime of international scope and scale, the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to any state agency nor to any political subdivision which is engaged in activities which may be supported by the resources of the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN GIFT).

M. Concerned by the chronic and pervasive problem of domestic violence in our state, the prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not apply to the Office of the Attorney General nor to the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board with regard to information and data exchanges with UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

N. Protective of our children and wishing to safeguard them from exploitation and danger in the workplace, the prohibition in Paragraph C shall not apply to the Oklahoma Department of Labor with regard to transactions with the International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.

O. The prohibition stated in Paragraph C shall not be applicable in the event that a determination has been made that a transaction (agreement, expenditure of funds, receipt of funds, etc.) with a nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations is: (1) In the best interest of the state of Oklahoma or one of its political subdivisions; and (2) Does not violate the property rights of any resident of the state of Oklahoma.

P. The determination referred to in Paragraph O may be made by any officer or employee of the state or its political subdivisions during the normal course of their duties.

Q. Except as provided in Paragraph R, the phrase “any nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations” shall mean that the General Assembly of the United Nations has formally recognized the nongovernmental or intergovernmental organization by the conclusion of a treaty, convention, protocol, or other written agreement. 

R. The meaning of the phrase “any nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations,” as used in Paragraph C, shall not include: (1) Intergovernmental organizations to which the United States of America belongs as a member; (2) Any charitable or educational organization recognized by the Internal Revenue Service; (3) Any charitable or educational organization registered with the Oklahoma Secretary of State; nor (4) Any commercial or business organization engaged in lawful commerce within the State of Oklahoma. 

# # #

Criticisms Continue

We’re committed to opposing Senate Bill 23 in the 2013 session of the Oklahoma Legislature. The proposed new law is built upon a false premise. If SB23 succeeds, it would result in some very pernicious consequences for the people of our state. It would prohibit state agencies, cities, counties, state universities and public libraries from investing in an array of resources from United Nations agencies and certain non-governmental organizations.

The first editorial opinion on Senate Bill 23 was published today by the Tulsa World. Here are some key excerpts:

It seems almost preposterous, but there are still people out there who sincerely believe there is a plot by the United Nations to take over the United States and evidently Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, is one of them. 
The latest conspiracy theory making the rounds on the Internet is the U.N.’s Agenda 21, which is seen by some, including Anderson, as a way for the U.N. to somehow gain control of our land and dictate how it can be used. 
Anderson plans to introduce Senate Bill 23, calling for a legal ban on city membership in groups tied to the Agenda 21 proposal….
Agenda 21 is a nonbinding document that is a comprehensive plan of global, national and local action to preserve the environment. It deals mostly with bike trails, mass transit, sustainable farming and energy conservation. That hardly sounds like a devious plan to take over the world…. 
We’d like to believe that the upcoming session of the Legislature would deal with the myriad of serious problems facing this state. If this legislation is any indication, that, sadly, is likely far too much to hope for.
Read more at the Tulsa World website. 


The next comment is from an engineer in our state’s aerospace industry. He offers his take on Senate Bill 23:

First, it goes against the Governor’s vision of Oklahoma’s technological future.  As an engineer in the aerospace industry, I rely on technical data from all over the world – including NATO and UN organizations – to keep Americans safe in the skies.  This whittles away at the capability we are trying to build.  We like it here, but this kind of “support” is disheartening.
Second, it flies in the face of the outstanding academic institutions we have here.  OSU agricultural research is world recognized.  In addition, we boast one of the best Engineering programs in this part of the country.  OU’s partnership with the National Severe Storms Lab has no other equal. Millions of dollars in research grants come here from around the world. This bill tells all of these institutions, “We don’t want you here because you are scientists.” If the bill were to pass as law, and defeated in appeals (I would expect constitutional concerns), our universities would be forbidden to access critical information they need to continue the amazing work they do.
Don’t forget this is also the center of the FAA universe with the Mike Monroney Aeronautical center.  The Air Force Logistics center is here.  The list of corporations employing educated technical professionals can go for pages.  Again, “We don’t want you here.”
Third, this is the OPPOSITE thing you would want to do if you didn’t trust, or were hostile to, international research.  You have to have academic peerage.  Researchers MUST be able to review other researcher’s works to ensure the science is accurate.  By banning this, you remove the ability of scientists to question it.  Note that none of these legislatures have much of anything to do with scientific careers, which is even more disheartening.
–James Beauchamp


Eric Heinze is a professor at the University of Oklahoma:

I am a professor and researcher of international relations, specifically international organizations and institutions, such as the United Nations. While I also have my opinions about the United Nations, it’s agenda, and efficacy in world politics, as an analyst and educator, the only way I can seek to advance knowledge and understanding of these institutions and how they operate — for good or bad — is if I am able to access the information that they produce.  The proposed legislation would seek to ban our state universities from purchasing a variety of research reports, datasets, and other information from entities tied to the United Nations, such as the World Bank, UNICEF, and scores of other UN-affiliated bodies that produce massive amounts of information on a variety of global issues. This would severely curtail access to this information by those studying and working on solutions to the world’s many problems, as well as stymie the advancement of knowledge about how international organizations are thought to affect world politics.  Such a law would be disastrous for the free flow of information, for the ability to produce knowledge, and would have detrimental effects on Oklahoma businesses operating in a global economy.
–Eric Heinze, Ph.D.