Kickstarting the UNGA’s High-Level Week on September 20, the SDG Moment is an annual event held to spotlight the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were signed back in 2015 in Paris in an effort to achieve “peace and prosperity for people and the planet.” This year’s SDG Moment put focus on climate change and conflicts especially in light of the COVID-19 crisis. It highlighted the importance of coming together to overcome global hurdles at a time when the SDGs are most endangered, despite the substantial progress made in the past six years. BTS’s attendance was described as a “fantastic contribution” prior to their speech.
Moon Jae-in, president of the Republic of Korea, was this year's special guest, and he anointed and introduced BTS as the country’s special presidential envoys for future generations and culture. As such, the group traveled from South Korea to New York to introduce a day-long session of talks and presentations. The seven members took to the U.N. podium at 8:30 a.m. and started their speech with a greeting before highlighting stories from fans. (This time, the septet delivered their full speech in Korean, with an interpreter translating to English.)
First, leader RM addressed the crowd at the United Nations’ headquarters and online. RM recounted how, as the designated representative for the future generations, they set out to use their voice by asking people around the world to share their stories with them via social media. Prior to the assembly, the group put out an open call, asking people to share how the past two years have changed them and the way they approach life in light of the pandemic.
Jin was in charge of sharing the first of the stories, and he took the time to highlight the positivity of the responses even as we collectively go through a period of grief. “There were times during the past two years when I, too, felt bewildered and troubled, but still here we have people who cry out, ‘let’s live on, let’s make the best of this moment,’” he shared.
Jimin and Jungkook built upon the oldest member's remarks. Jimin highlighted how our youth is an ideal time to take on new challenges and, despite the circumstances, we can’t sit still. Jungkook, on the other hand, shared a message for the young people who missed their graduation ceremonies. “These are moments of lives meant to be celebrated and missing out on them is upsetting,” he said, sharing that the septet also went through a hard time when their concerts were canceled. “It was a time for us to mourn the things COVID took away from us,” Suga continued. “[But also] a time to discover how precious things we took for granted were.”
When asked about what they took for granted pre-pandemic, Jimin added that most of the people that shared their stories said it was sharing moments with nature, which relates to many of the SDGs, but, in particular, Goal number 13 (Climate Action). “Everyone agrees that climate change is an important problem, but talking about what the best solution might be is not easy,” J-Hope added after waxing poetic about fleeting existence and mourning.
RM and V took the time to highlight how young people showing interest in environmental issues signals a bright future. Even if we don’t know what’s to come, there’s hope. “I hope we don’t just consider the future as grim darkness, we have people who are concerned for the world and searching for the answers,” V said. “There are still many pages left in the story about us and we shouldn’t talk like the ending is already written.”
Jungkook said that, for the younger generations, sometimes it is normal to feel like the world is stuck or that you’ve lost your way. RM then shared that because of the pandemic and the limitations put in place to overcome it, the people in their teens and 20s are being referred to as “COVID’s lost generation,” but Jimin and Jin suggest it should be renamed as the “welcome generation.”
“Instead of fearing change, this generation welcomes it,” Jin expanded. “What is important is the choices we make when faced with change,” J-hope added. (The group also took the chance to share that all members had proudly received their COVID-19 vaccines when discussing how we can embrace these changes.) As part of the “welcome generation,” BTS’s message of welcome, the group says, is their latest song “Permission to Dance.” The septet ended their speech introducing a joyous performance of the single at the U.N. headquarters, later taking to the surrounding areas, and joined by a jubilant crowd to close out the performance flashmob-style. “We thought the world had stopped but it keeps on moving,” RM added before the performance. "Every choice we make is the beginning of change."
Right after the speech, the members of BTS took to Twitter to thank fans for their contributions. “Your participation made this speech possible. We were thrilled to have the honor of telling the world the stories of #YouthToday together with you. We will always be by your side. #YourStories are just beginning,” the BTS official Twitter account posted, alongside a collage of the moments shared by fans.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue