cartoon of the week

World’s Most Impossible Job?

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CREDIT: Luojie/ China Daily/Cagle Cartoons

On January 1, the United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has served since 2007, will step down. António Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal who currently serves as the U.N.’s high commissioner for refugees, will succeed him as head of the U.N., taking office at a time of great global conflict. As The Economist magazine has written of Guterres: “He will have no time to catch his breath.”

The U.N. was founded in 1945, after the devastation of World War II (1939-45). It now has 193 member states, and the organization’s goals include maintaining international peace and security, and fighting hunger, poverty, disease, and illiteracy around the world. But with major conflicts like the civil war in Syria and global terrorism, some critics have questioned whether the U.N. is up to the job. 


  1. What are the two men in the cartoon—Ban Ki-moon on the right and António Guterres on the left—doing?
  2. What symbol does Ban Ki-moon have in his hands, and why is he pushing it uphill?
  3. Examine the body language of the two men. How is each drawn, and how does that comment on their situations?
  4. The cartoon refers to the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus, who was doomed by the gods to repeatedly roll a stone up a mountain, only to have it fall back again as soon as he reached the top. Based on the cartoonist’s use of that myth, what is the overall message of the cartoon?
  5. Do you think the U.N. has fulfilled the mission it set for itself in 1945? What do you think are some of the major challenges for the organization?

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