The Real Worth of Model United Nations

by Gabriela on March 8, 2013

The liar, the honest, the leader and the pariah ; at first, they seem like quickly cited stereotypes taken from the hit song “This is War”. However, upon a closer look, the lyrics couldn’t be more appropriate when describing people found in Model United Nations and, what’s more, in real life.

After nearly six years of witnessing intense gavel hunting, troublesome binder-compilations and nerve-wracking crisis simulations, I can’t help but wonder…

What does Model UN truly teach us?

Almost three months ago, a few team mates and I participated in a Model European Union conference. Several other schools had a larger number of representatives and my younger peers, save for one, couldn’t help but feel intimated.

Whilst the two high school freshmen were all smiles after some encouragement, the third girl, a sophomore, quietly sneered at us and left to earn the coveted prize: the Medal of Excellence, commonly known as the Best Delegate award.

It was an impressive fight to the finish: the girl employed Power Delegate methods that fooled the new, drove away those with experience and guaranteed her a spot among the top recognitions. At the awards ceremony, my bloc speculated who would possibly win the medal. I smiled at their attempts, but years of experience in MUN have taught me a very important lesson: being the committee’s favorite and the Chair’s favorite are very different things.

When the sophomore was announced as my committee’s best, the air became tinged with disappointment and I forced a smile: I felt somewhat let-down, but at least someone from my school had been rewarded. As my team mate took her seat and confidently waited to be showered with praise, something happened that has been the most shocking scene I have ever witnessed in an activity of this kind.

One by one, over half of our committee’s delegations stood from their seats, looked at her in disapproval and walked out of the ceremony. Amidst my shock, one of them signaled me to follow, and so I did.

Once outside, everyone vented feelings of disappointment and hurt while arguing why my school mate shouldn’t have won. At the zenith of our heated conversation, one of my best friends, who also served as Chair in another committee, walked in and said something that changed our perspectives: “if you all know what really happened, then why are you fussing over a scrap of metal? I think the passionate debaters I saw in there aren’t the same people I’m talking to now”, and with that, he walked away.

To this date, he has been one of my biggest role models in MUN and beyond. His 10+ delegate awards are simply the quantitative reasons of why anyone would admire him. My deep rooted admiration stems from how he approaches Model United Nations and life itself. He is not a Gavel Hunter or a Pacifist; he is just someone doing what he loves while encouraging other people to do the right thing. He lends a hand to novice delegates and puts the concept of synergy into practice as he leads his team mates to victory. Years have passed and after each conference, I see him grow closer to people he’s previously met and gain friendships from those he has recently interacted with. To him, Model UN is not a battlefield nor a competition; rather, his mentality is summarized in the following phrase:

“Model United Nations is the theater of life, and the key to success is to play the part you’ve been assigned your whole life: you”

So I ask once again: what does Model UN truly teach us? Is it really worthwhile to sacrifice potential friendships and the trust of dozens, and even hundreds, of people just for the sake of a crystal trophy, an elegant gavel or a diploma? Or worse: is it so important to be someone else in order to have a few minutes, and luckily days, of stardom?

In regards to the girl I had previously mentioned, she may be showered with awards and praise from our counselors, but I have not seen her bond with the first person she’s been up against in committee. When it’s time for a new conference, she is desperate to seek fresh faces because those she’s been with already know her antics and steer as far from her as possible.

We supposedly convene to find a “peaceful” solution to some of history’s most pressing issues; however, at the core of what we really do, we are promoting the same anti values that have driven most, if not all, of our time’s conflicts: unhealthy competition, prejudice, injustice, and a whole plethora of negative traits.

At first it may seem that we have joined to replicate our time’s most admirable organization and the majestic world of international relations; yet, at the very heart of the activity, we are displaying the antithesis our forefathers at the League of Nations would have shunned without much thought.

With this in mind, I find the following sentence extremely fitting:

“In the end, it doesn’t even matter”

The trophy may shatter to pieces in your parents’ attic. The gavel may crack under the pressure of countless other mementos of your high school life. The diplomas may get dog-eared or turn yellow because of days, months and even years of abandon. Are physical keepsakes really worth risking friendships and unforgettable memories? If so, I think you should ponder what kind of lifestyle you’ve been leading up until now.

Before you attempt to manipulate or put someone down for the sake of that gavel, take some time to think: is this who I am? Do I really want this? Just then, you may realize the meaning behind John Lennon’s words: “life is what happens while you are too busy making other plans”. The gavel may seem like the North Star in your path right now, but just when you think you’ve reached greatness will you see how truly lonely your journey has become.

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