I have long felt some elusive attraction to Model UN—a United Nations competitive stimulation in which teams of high school students engage in political debate.
My fascination began in the spring of my eight-grade year as I began the high school application process. After reading extensively through Model UN school profiles, I began to develop an image of the club as some sort of emblem of worldly knowledge that I knew I wished to achieve. And yet, when I arrived at Concord Academy (CA) in the fall of 2012, I did not join their Model UN team.
It was the second week of my freshmen year and I was still making friends when I showed up at Club Expo—a showcase for clubs to advertise with candy and fantastical displays. Two seniors wielding gavels and a sign up sheet manned the Model UN table. I knew the two to be top of their class and proficient in their political understanding and rhetorical skill and frankly I wasn’t sure if I fit into that crowd. So it was not until the beginning of my sophomore year that I took a leap and joined CA’s Model UN team.
When I showed up for the orientation meeting, I had little political knowledge. I knew I was a democrat because my parents voted left. I knew I envisioned a world of equality no matter color, gender, or sexual orientation and so I called myself socially liberal. But this was the extent and even that, I’m not sure I could have put into words.
I went to a few conferences my sophomore year and served as an assistant on a committee at our school’s annual conference, CAMUN. The club encouraged me to read the New York Times and the Atlantic in my free time to keep up with world outside of our small rural town of Concord, Massachusetts. Everyone on the team was always up for a debate in and outside of classes and always willing to share their opinion. And so as my sophomore year ended and junior year began I realized that Model UN had built a culture at Concord Academy that made it ‘cool’ to be politically informed and willing to share. My friends and I added talk shows like Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, and Steven Colbert into our TV-watching portfolios. It was not uncommon to stumble upon a heated social or political debate in the library or cafeteria and not uncommon for a passerby to jump in with an opinion of their own.
I found most of the school to be relentlessly liberal especially when it came to social issues. I agreed and disagreed and found myself falling into a group of change-oriented thinkers. Our conversations often revolved around building social equality, restructuring broken political systems, and we often touched upon the very ideologies that fostered our political beliefs.
At the end of this school year, I was chosen to be co-head of our Model UN team. It was then that I took a step back and realized how far I’d come. But as I looked back, I realized that it was not about personal achievement. It’s more the fact that in a few years we are going to be out there running the country. This generation has the immense and singular opportunity to build a better future for our country and our offspring. On the brink of overpopulation, nuclear warfare, multicultural societies, technological innovation, and the destruction of the natural world—we are the one who must step up.
It was a sunny spring day when Concord Academy hosted the annual CAMUN conference. I was lucky to be chairing my own committee, which I designed as a debate between corporate lobbyists and members of the senate over the issue of Campaign Finance Reform. It was there—sitting in front of a room of thirty or so determined faces, each racing to construct ideologies and beliefs into arguments and legislation to change our country and our world—when the gravity of political discourse hit me. To my class mates far and wide: pay attention to the world around you because it will soon be yours. Learn what you believe in and do not be afraid to share your beliefs. And maybe, just maybe, take a leap, and join your school’s Model UN team. It was quite the journey.