Donald Trump’s first U.N. General Assembly: An insider’s guide

UNITED NATIONS — Forget Davos. Forget Twitter and Facebook making news events go viral.

The annual September gathering of world leaders in Manhattan’s Turtle Bay, known as the United Nations General Assembly, or UNGA to insiders, has been grabbing worldwide headlines and stalling midtown traffic since then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev yanked off his shoe to pound a desk in protest in 1960. In an effort to bring order at the time, the Irish president of the General Assembly banged his gavel so hard it broke.

Although a time limit of 15 minutes is allocated to each of the 193 nations’ speakers and additional non-member entities and states, Cuba’s President Fidel Castro gave the longest speech at 269 minutes, Libya’s Col. Muammar Qaddafi gave the most rambling one at 96 minutes, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez referenced the devil, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s 2012 speech was illustrated with a cartoon bomb, and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked a mass walkout of diplomats.

The Economist found that during President Obama’s years he gave the longest speeches at 38 minutes on average.

These speeches have all used the UNGA stage to challenge the normally sleepy order of things at the U.N.

Where the U.S. stays

Since 1945, hundreds of countries and thousands of diplomats and reporters from around the world gather to showboat and hobnob. Sometimes the buzz focuses as much on who’s not coming as who will appear.

Where key leaders rest their weary heads generates press as well. Last year, Mr. Obama dissed the traditional lodging for U.S. presidents, the Waldorf Astoria, because the Chinese had purchased the grande dame. Mr. Obama instead stayed two blocks away at the New York Palace Hotel, which is owned by South Korean company Lotte.

The Waldorf had hosted all 13 U.S. presidents elected since its opening. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping chose the Waldorf although he is not attending this year. The Waldorf Towers ambassadorial residence, which had been home to the United States’ U.N. ambassador since 1947, was only moved after the arrival of U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley this year.

For his part, President Trump, whose longtime bedroom in Trump Tower is just three blocks from the Palace Hotel, reportedly is considering staying at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, over an hour’s drive from U.N. headquarters. It raises a big question: Will foreign leaders have to make the drive for face time with the U.S. president?


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