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New U.N. Leader Sets Goals: Humility, Empathy, Empowering Women

Antonio Guterres, the newly elected United Nations secretary-general and former prime minister of Portugal, delivers remarks at U.N. headquarters on Thursday in New York City.

On Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly welcomed Antonio Guterres of Portugal as the new secretary-general of the U.N., replacing Ban Ki-moon.

In a short speech expressing his "gratitude and humility" to the assembly for the five-year term, he highlighted his priorities: humility, empathy for the underprivileged and the "empowerment of women and girls."

Here are three key quotes from his remarks:

On the humility of the job

The dramatic problems of today's complex world can only inspire a humble approach — one in which the secretary-general alone neither has all the answers, nor seeks to impose his views; one in which the secretary-general makes his good offices available, working as a convener, a mediator, a bridge-builder and an honest broker to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved.

On feeling empathy for refugees

Over the last 10 years, I have witnessed, firsthand, the suffering of the most vulnerable people on earth. I have visited war zones and refugee camps where one might legitimately ask: what has happened to the dignity and worth of the human person?

What has made us immune to the plight of those most socially and economically underprivileged? All this makes me feel the acute responsibility to make human dignity the core of my work.

On addressing women's issues

I have long been aware of the hurdles women face in society, in the family and in the workplace just because of their gender. I have witnessed the violence they are subject to during conflict, or while fleeing it, just because they are women. I have tried to address this through every public office I have ever held. The protection and the empowerment of women and girls will continue to be a priority commitment for me.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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