The Practice of Diplomacy: A Letter From Secretary-General Jacob Shercliffe
When I was thinking about my letter this year, I had a lot on my mind. The past twelve months have been filled with more and more evidence that people are unwilling to speak with one another. Technology allows us to be closer than ever to each hurricane, terrorist attack, and international conflict. At the same time, however, I find it harder than ever for people to connect with one another, to speak honestly, openly, and truthfully to their convictions and concerns. Now, more than ever, we must be intentional about conversing.
Here at Model United Nations, we practice diplomacy. Not the saber-rattling and threats of sanction, but of turning to one another and speaking as equals. The basis of culture and civilization are conversations; people sitting down and talking. These conversations are not easy. If they were, we wouldn’t see such conflict and contempt cross our news feeds every day. But the issues we debate and discuss are important. Because they are complex and because they are difficult to solve, they demand our attention and respect.
I’m not going to sugar coat it. Speaking about climate change or human trafficking or nuclear weapons is not pleasant – but it is necessary. These questions offer both laboratories for critical thought and problem solving as well as a means of developing empathy for one another. The deliberative process, as a pedagogy, grants us a unique opportunity to learn from each other as peers, as equals.
As this next cycle of Model United Nations begins, I am optimistic once again. Not because the problems of this country and this planet have gotten any simpler or easier to solve, quite the contrary. I am optimistic because the young minds who offer solutions are passionate. They believe in collaboration and are willing to make sacrifices to do what is right.
Between now and February, I implore you to start being intentional about your conversations. Connect with those around you and practice speaking honestly and openly. Then come find me in February and teach me all that you have learned. Together, little by little, these conversations will help us make the world a better place.