Usually playing host to presidents and prime ministers, the podium of the United Nations General Assembly hall this week was also the venue for a marriage proposal.
Just four days before Christmas, a Southern Californian Catholic professor popped the marriage question to his German Jewish girlfriend as their private tour of UN headquarters in New York City artfully ended in the expansive hall of the General Assembly. For the past several months, Alan Daly had his heart set on the UN as the place where he wanted to ask Bettina Hausmann, his girlfriend of three years, to marry him. So at the podium where global affairs are usually debated, Mr. Daly kneeled down and asked Ms. Hausmann to marry him. She said “Yes.”
“The UN is a giant symbol of peace and hope and love and understanding,” said the 39-year-old Mr. Daly, who is originally from Boston. “And those are qualities that make a foundation for a good relationship.”
The couple, who met three years ago on a flight from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, Calif. while Ms. Hausmann was visiting from her native Germany, have always supported the Organization’s efforts to resolve conflicts – especially its extensive role in the volatile Middle East. And the Mideast region has long been a passion of Ms. Hausmann, who has a master’s degree in international management from a German university and will return to school in southern California this fall to secure a degree in global studies.
While a student at the City College of Santa Barbara this past spring, the 35-year-old German participated in a Model UN program and represented Saudi Arabia. She speaks five languages, German, English, Russian, French, Greek, as well as a bit of Yiddish. Mr. Daly speaks English and a bit of German – which he says he mangled badly to repeat his marriage proposal to Ms. Hausmann in her native language.
The couple arrived in New York City from Santa Barbara, where they live together, on Tuesday night and made their first visit to the UN Wednesday morning. Unfazed by the New York City transit strike that had snarled traffic around town, the couple caught a cab to make their 11:30 a.m. private tour, which Mr. Daly had already booked.
Their German-Iranian UN tour guide, Ahmad Azadi, made the arrangements with UN security to let the couple enter the General Assembly’s floor, which is generally off- limit to visitors. Mr. Azadi also helped the couple celebrate their engagement with a lunch in the UN Delegate’s Dining Room. The couple’s luggage was lost during the previous day’s flight from California and they were wearing jeans, a violation of the dining room’s dress code. So Mr. Azadi, who had chosen to wear his traditional Iranian dress that day, lent Mr. Daly his UN tour guide garb - a light blue shirt, navy pants and a tie with the UN logo printed in red. Ms. Hausmann received his olive green, Iranian woolen wrap to literally wrap around her jeans.
“The UN symbolizes human relationships,” said Mr. Daly, “I wish more people would realize that human relationships are what is most important.”
Helene Hoedl, chief of the Guided Tours Unit at the UN, said this was the first marriage proposal that had taken place at headquarters during her five years with the Organization. About 400,000 visitors are expected to pass through UN headquarters this year, an increase of 14 per cent over 2004.