On December 2nd and 3rd the World Affairs Council hosted its Model United Nations program, one of the oldest in the country. With over thirty schools and nearly a thousand students participating this was one of the most successful years for the program, which was once again generously hosted by the University of Hartford.
The most striking thing about Model U.N. is the sheer size of it. Watching from my post printing replacement name tags I see a mighty horde of teenagers file into the Lincoln Auditorium, and hear the rumble of their conversation as they awaited opening ceremonies.
As the ceremony ends, Allen Haugh, the President, directs the committees to exit in an orderly fashion. The huge serpent begins to wind its way across the University of Hartford campus, led by student volunteers to various different rooms where their committees will meet for the next two days.
I sneak away from my other duties on the second day, to see what the committees are getting up to. In one room I see a flurry of activity; runners passing notes between nations, frantic conversation in tight huddles, moderators standing at the podium and keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. There is a volunteer sitting in the back, taking notes and a headcount, but he is barely noticed by the students. This is their show, and they know how to run it.
Order is called, and nations try their hardest to form coalitions to get their resolution passed. Israel, then Germany, then Cuba, then India are all recognized and make their cases. Before long, Israel gets its resolution enough support to be added to the speakers list.
Mousa, a representative from Germany, and more locally from the Hartford MUN club, raises the issue that speaking should be limited to 45 seconds per person. The order of speakers is set, and I watch as students attempt the difficult balancing act of trying to keep enough people happy to pass their resolution. Countries fall by the wayside as the bill seems less and less likely to survive the diplomatic onslaught. Co-sponsors withdraw their support and are deleted from the bill in real time, almost as if the document itself is bleeding.
Syria takes the floor, and the student looks down at his phone, clearly excited about the speech he has prepared. “Blood alone turns the wheels of history!” he begins, speaking passionately into the microphone. Raucous applause erupt as the delegates praise the speaker for his intense role-playing. By the end of his speech he has suggested that the U.N. declare unlimited war on Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. The motion is not passed, and the bill flounders and does not pass either.
The students don’t miss a beat, and as I leave they are already back at it, passing notes and holding huddled meetings to plan their next move.
It is quite a sight, walking into an auditorium or cafeteria and seeing a sea of placards thrust into the air, waving desperately at the moderator. The focus these students have is nothing short of remarkable, reminding me of my days in high school cross country. When we weren’t running we were just a bunch of goofball teenagers, but once we stepped onto the course we gained a professional attitude and laser focus. I can see it in the eyes of the delegates; this is game time for them. The trip to New York to meet missions was no doubt fun, and writing resolutions was no doubt tedious at times, but the actual act of sitting down and trying to pass a resolution is clearly the pinnacle of this experience.
The rumble of the rooms fades as I return to my post. After a while the students file back through, dropping off their committee boxes and heading over to closing ceremonies. They run the closing as well as they ran their committees and a real sense of accomplishment floods the theater. As they file back to their buses, no doubt feeling tired yet triumphant, I help to clean up the last few bits of material. The campus seems empty now that it isn’t teeming with teenagers, and I reflect again upon the sheer insanity that is herding hundreds of high school students through a college campus and my incredulity at how well it went.
Sponsored by Lincoln Financial Group, United Technologies, Trinity College, UIL Holdings Corporation, Barnes Group Inc.
Hosted by University of Hartford
Program Printed by Pratt & Whitney
With special thanks to the Spier Family Fund, Stockton Family, and Stanly D. and Hinda N. Fisher Fund
Photography by Spencer Sloan Photography and Nick Caito Photography