STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 07/24/2008
"It confirmed my interest in politics and macro-level work. I learned the importance of charisma and a strong argument." Christy Hemstreet '09
"The more I learn the less I seem to know." I'm sure many have said that at one time or another. After attending the Harvard National Model United Nations Conference (HNMUN) in 2007 and 2008, I can be counted as one of them. Preparing for a conference as prestigious as this one was by far the most intimidating task I have ever taken on. It is an annual grand simulation of the United Nations system in which students participate as delegates representing member states. Our delegation joined 3,000 other college students from 40 different countries, representing schools including Yale, the University of Chicago, West Point, Eastern University, Hong Kong Baptist, the University of Baghdad and Venezuela's Simon de Bolivar University. While Harvard's is the only conference of this type Gordon chooses to attend, many of the schools are notorious for their continuous and rigorous training--10 months to our three--for this conference and several others.
Gordon's delegations for the past three years have been committed to representing an African country, partly because there are currently no other courses offered on African politics at Gordon, but mostly because we want to emphasize the importance of experiencing firsthand the frustrations felt by developing countries in interacting with the Unites States and other superpowers in a "diplomatic" environment. As a result, our preparation involves a mostly defensive strategy, and expectations for an uphill battle against "the system" is added to our list of disadvantages before we even arrive at the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston.
Despite the many odds against us, Gordon College has consistently fared well and, in many cases, excelled at the conference. Members of our delegation were among the most memorable and frequent speakers (some in committees of 400 people); others were important contributors to successful resolutions. Often they played key roles in bringing together a united African bloc: a force to be reckoned with as it demonstrates the power of strength in numbers; but no easy feat because the African bloc is notoriously--and in some ways fundamentally--divisive.
I count my experiences at HNMUN among the most rewarding and academically stimulating of my life. An understanding of diplomacy, sovereignty and international politics is now stamped on my worldview, expanding it in innumerable ways. The Gordon College mission is "to graduate men and women distinguished by intellectual maturity and Christian character, committed to a lifestyle of service and prepared for leadership roles worldwide." For four days I brushed shoulders with the future leaders of the world and realized I could be one of them. The conference forced me to face my potential for the very first time, and as a result I realized how much I have yet to achieve. Clearly the students at Gordon College are capable of this kind of engagement, but without this opportunity I may never have known it. It is my sincere hope that Gordon College will not only continue to support the involvement of its students in this annual conference, but that Gordon will invest in and encourage other experiences like it.
Sarah Lambert is a psychology major with a concentration in community development. She enjoys the writing process, and tutors students in the CCC (Christianity, Character and Culture) sections for which she serves as a mentor. She is a journalist with a particular interest in social change and justice. Her experiences with Gordon College's Model United Nations Conferences have opened her eyes to the importance of interactive learning and the practice of diplomacy in daily living.