By Doug W. ’15
Photos by Mrs. Simonds
Model United Nations is a course second-to-none in honing students’ skills in public speaking, debate and spontaneous critical thinking. MUN is an opportunity to practice and elevate one’s capacity to do meaningful research. MUN is a medium through which students learn how to analyze sources, evaluate arguments, recognize biases, formulate opinions and articulate those opinions well.
But beyond all of that, MUN — under the guidance of Mr. Sam Schindler — is a journey that exposes students to global perspectives with which they might be unfamiliar or even uncomfortable. MUN pushes students to acknowledge new ideas and cultures and to immerse themselves in international events. MUN fosters a sense of involvement in a world beyond our immediate community and inspires an attitude — a desire — to make an impact in that wider world.
This journey toward global awareness came to fruition in late January as the LCDS Model United Nations class traveled to The Hague, Netherlands to participate in the world’s largest and most prestigious Model United Nations conference (THIMUN), alongside roughly 3,500 students from around the globe.
Before travelling to The Netherlands, the MUN class first ventured to Paris, accompanied by Mr. Schindler, Head of Lower School Christina Simonds, Upper School Dean of Students Rob Umble and his wife, Maura. After touching down in the City of Lights, we were immediately greeted by Mr. Schindler’s sister, Jessie. Throughout our three days in the city we repeatedly enjoyed her knowledge of Paris, informal tours and immense hospitality. She even went so far as to welcome our entire class into her home to serve us breakfast! In addition to taking in the tourist must-sees, such as Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and Sacre-Coeur, we also indulged in traditional French cuisine along the way. We also enjoyed the opportunity to further explore the city, visiting the Arch de Triumph and the Louvre, meandering down the Champs Élysées, and simply soaking in the European atmosphere.
One could have, understandably, been concerned given the horror at Charlie Hebdo and the other attacks throughout Paris that occurred only days before our trip. I, and the rest of the MUN class, would contend that the timing of our trip to Paris presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Confronted with these atrocities, Paris, France, and the entire international community rallied to support one another in unprecedented fashion. To acclaim tolerance and respect in the face of violence demonstrates the integrity necessary of the world and its citizens if we want to continue striving toward peace and mutual acceptance. And we — 15 students from Lancaster, Pennsylvania — got to experience this solidarity firsthand. We saw the graffiti “JE SUIS CHARLIE” (“We are Charlie”) decorating every corner of every street. We saw the Place de la République decked out in banners, signs, posters, and paint, collectively voicing the same rallying cry: “JE SUIS CHARLIE.” We bought the first issue of Charlie Hebdo printed after the attack, whose front cover declared: “Tout est Pardonne” (All is forgiven). We experienced this rallying, this tolerance, this respect.
A train ride through Belgium brought us to The Hague on Sunday, Jan. 25. After a polar plunge into the North Sea and a motivational speech from Mr. Schindler that would have put Coach Brooks from “Miracle” to shame, we were ready to put our last five months of work into practice: In the morning we would experience THIMUN.
We represented Belarus, a post-Soviet satellite state that only achieved independence in 1990. Belarus maintains a unique position, caught between lingering East/West tensions and polarization. Its historical, political, economic and cultural ties with Russia are strong, yet Belarus still must strive to assert its own sovereignty, all the while maintaining a front of compliance with Western powers. Coming from the United States, it was certainly an enlightening and rewarding experience to represent a nation leaning toward the Eastern spectrum of residual Cold War allegiances.
With this Belarussian perspective engrained in us through months of intensive research and grueling coursework, we began our THIMUN experience.
Monday was consumed by lobbying, and Tuesday largely with opening speeches; Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were spent debating resolutions. With committee meetings from 9-5 and much of our nights spent preparing speeches and redrafting resolutions, it was a busy, yet extremely rewarding five days.
It became apparent that Mr. Schindler had prepared us well. THIMUN was our chance to demonstrate the value of our hard work against our best-prepared peers from around the globe, and we capitalized on this opportunity, drafting resolutions, submitting amendments and giving speeches. Perhaps the most meaningful part of the THIMUN experience, however, was our interactions with fellow delegates. There’s truly nothing like collaborating with students from Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Russia, Britain, China, the United Arab Emirates and India (to name just a few). Putting the work aside, it’s simply an enriching experience to talk to and become friends with such a diverse group of individuals, each with a unique background and perspective. That experience truly exemplifies the mission of MUN: journeying toward global citizenship.
On behalf of the entire 2015 LCDS MUN class, I’d like to thank Mrs. Simonds, and Mr. and Mrs. Umble for taking their time to accompany us throughout Europe. I’d like to extend this thanks to Mr. Schindler as well, but to also thank him for his continuing drive to help us grow as students and individuals, and his genuine support in all that we do. Our worlds would be much smaller without him.