I was cleaning and organizing my possessions over winter break when I found one of my gavels hidden inside a cabinet drawer. I didn’t remember that I had placed it there and I started wondering where all my other gavels were. It’s been a few years since I’ve retired from being a delegate in Model UN. So what happened to all the awards and memorabilia that I’ve accumulated over the years?
It turns out that my gavels were scattered around my parents’ house. I found four of them hidden in various cabinet drawers and boxes, and I knew one of them was in my backpack that I brought with me on my recent twelve-week Fall tour. But I unfortunately couldn’t find a few of my other gavels including my first gavel, although I’m sure they’re probably stored somewhere around the house too.
I did find some other awards and memorabilia though. I found the Kofi Annan Award plaque that used to hang at my parent’s house stored in one of the cabinets. This award was given to the Most Outstanding Secretary-General and I was most proud of this award because it recognized all the team achievements — my high school club tripled its membership and won five Best Delegation awards — under my leadership as Secretary-General.
I have one big box in the garage that contains all my prized accomplishments and best work from middle school all the way to college. There I found my old research binder from high school and all my certificate awards were still in there with sheet protectors. The box also contained placards, credentials, and a few programs from notable conferences. I re-read my Secretary-General biography from the UNA-USA MUN 2008 program — “Kevin hopes to be a global business leader in the near future but an educator later in life.”
The only item I found that was not stored somewhere was a photograph of me delivering my Secretary-General’s speech at the Opening Ceremonies of UNA-USA MUN 2008. My parents, who saw me speak in person, framed that photo and decorated it with a UN flag. Occasionally I’ve seen them put newspaper clippings of influential world leaders like Barack Obama or Wen Jiabao speaking from the same marble podium side-by-side with my framed photograph. Serving as Secretary-General for UNA-USA’s flagship Global Classrooms conference for inner-city youth was my most proud moment of my college MUN career — and also most memorable since I got to introduce the real Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to an audience of over 2,400 participants.
So why am I sharing all this with you? It’s not to brag about my accomplishments. Rather, I wanted to share my reflections on my Model UN experience and what all these awards mean to me now that I’m several years removed from participating as a delegate. The fact that the photograph from UNA-USA MUN is still on display and that the Kofi Annan Award used to be hanging on the wall shows that in the end, Model UN wasn’t about me. It was about making a difference in the lives of others. It still is; my job now at Best Delegate is to help make a difference through Model UN. And I hope that’s the case for every delegate — Model UN should inspire us to change the world.
The individual awards are still meaningful and memorable. But they don’t matter as much now as they did before. The fact that my gavels and almost everything else from my MUN career were stored somewhere — and oftentimes in a place that I didn’t remember — showed me that I no longer define my Model UN career by the number of awards I had won. Instead, my Model UN career is defined by personal growth, memorable experiences, and lasting friendships.
So my advice to all the delegates as they prepare for some of the most competitive conferences in the world in these next few months: the awards are great, but that’s not what truly matters in the end. If you decide to do your best, make friends, and have fun, you will have rewarded yourself with more memories than an award could ever do. Or to put it in a traveler’s perspective: when you look back, it will not be about the destination but rather about the journey. Make sure to enjoy it.