I gave the keynote speech at this weekend’s Mission Viejo High School Model United Nations Conference, which was a special moment for me because it marked several personal milestones. Mission Viejo is where my Model UN journey began over ten years ago as a high school freshman. I was Secretary-General of the conference in my senior year. And I realized that this would be the 100th Model UN conference I’ve ever attended. I felt like I had come full circle.
My prepared remarks are below, although I got caught up in the moment and changed most of it as I was speaking.
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As I stand here before you in front of the Mission Viejo mascot, Pablo the Diablo, who’s staring at me while holding a pitchfork surrounded by flames, I can’t help but think that the theme of this year’s conference is very appropriate: “Through the fire, the spirit is forged.”
The theme resonates with me because, eight years ago, I was the Secretary-General of this conference. It was a time of transition. It was the first year that Mr. Trevino took over as advisor, after the previous advisor, Ms. Elowe, suffered a stroke and later passed away.
Now, 8 years later, I’m proud to see its spirit forged anew and stronger than ever. I stood then where I stand before – in front of Pablo the Diablo, surrounded by flames – and as I reflect on the theme, I believe it has a different meaning for each of us.
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To the delegates: You might see this conference as a challenge. I know we have a lot of novice conferences in Southern California and this might not be your first, but you still might be nervous to make a speech or scared to raise your placard.
You might have done a lot of research and prepared really hard for this conference. You really want to win an award. I will give all of you the best advice I have for winning awards: don’t worry about awards. Strive, but don’t stress, for success, and success will come to you.
Model UN is about more than awards. Model UN is an activity about students teaching other students. It’s about sharing your research and preparation through speeches and caucuses in order to help one another learn about your countries and your topics. And the Best Delegate in committee is often the best teacher, someone who empowers others to participate and helps others learn. Best Delegate is more than a piece of wood or a sheet of paper.
Model UN is about coming to conferences like this with your classmates and your friends, meeting the best and the brightest from other schools and other countries, traveling to places both familiar and foreign as a way to learn about the world and about yourselves.
To the advisors: This conference is a challenge for you, too. In addition to prepping for class and grading papers in your spare time, you give up your weekends and time away from your own families in order to invest in your students and seize this opportunity to take learning beyond the classroom. It was one thing for me to be a student and look up to my advisors, but now that I work with students, I have newfound respect for how difficult your job is. And I’m especially thankful to the advisors who’ve known me since I was a delegate and who continue to support me with Best Delegate, and in particular, my own advisor, Mr. Trevino.
To the parents and educators: This conference is also a challenge for you. Thank you for volunteering your time to be here. And I know this is not an easy time to be in education, especially in large public high schools like Mission, but thank you for your continued support for Model UN.
And finally, to the Secretariat: I know how much of a challenge putting on this conference is. My advice to you: Breathe. Look around you. Enjoy this moment. Be proud of what you accomplish this weekend.
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I say this to you because I’ve gone from being a novice delegate to an advanced delegate to a conference organizer, to working with advisors and parents and educators. I actually just realized this morning that this is the 100th Model UN conference I’ve ever attended since starting as a freshman at this very high school. I know how much of an impact Model UN has made in my life. Model UN helped me get into Yale, work for Goldman Sachs, and start my own company, Best Delegate.
Now, my mission with Best Delegate is to promote Model UN. I launched Best Delegate from my dorm during my senior year at Yale, and it has grown from being a Model UN blog to becoming the best Model UN resource in the world. Over 20,000 people visit Best Delegate every month. Our Model UN consulting and coaching services help students and teachers around the world learn how to do Model UN. And today, I am proud to announce the launch of Model UN Summer Camps at UC Irvine and Yale University.
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And on my 100th conference, I’d like us all to realize something. Most people don’t realize that Model UN is not an organization or a program. It lacks central authority and central governance. Model UN not run by the actual UN. And despite this, Model UN has grown from a handful conferences 60 years ago in the US with a few college students to hundreds of conferences today around the world with thousands of students across all grade levels. Model UN conferences like one and Model UN programs like yours have developed independently.
What we must realize is that Model UN is not an organization, but Model UN is a community. Every delegate and every advisor, every chair and conference organizer, from high school to college, from grade school to grad school, across the United States and around the world: we are part of the Model UN community.
We should see ourselves as a community. We should come together as one. We should share our common experience in Model UN. We should join one another along our Model UN journey. We should be proud to participate in Model UN.
The beauty of Model UN is that it not only shows us how the world is, but how it could be, and gives us the confidence and the courage to make a difference. This is the fire that forges the spirit of the Model UN community.
And you can make that happen starting with this weekend by just having fun! Learn something about the world and about yourselves. Make speeches and make friends. Share your Model UN experience. Enjoy your Model UN journey. And be proud to be part of the Model UN community.
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I’d love to know what you think about the Model UN community. Please leave a comment below!