This week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson welcomed nearly 700 Washington-area students, teachers, and special guests to the Department for its annual Model United Nations (UN) conference. In his remarks, the Secretary said he was heartened by the students’ interest in global affairs and encouraged them to consider careers in diplomacy. He encouraged the fifth through twelfth graders to continue their engagement in activities like Model UN, which helps develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills vitally important for America’s future leaders.
This marks the 14th year that the Department has played host to the Model UN conference, a partnership between the Bureau of International Organization Affairs and Global Classrooms DC, a program of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA). Since its inception, more than 9,000 elementary, middle, and high school students have engaged in lively debates within the walls of the Department, working on solutions to global issues ranging from sustainable development and the human rights of refugees to rising sea levels and the situation in Somalia.
In his remarks, Secretary Tillerson emphasized the important role the United Nations plays in addressing pressing challenges like the crisis in Syria and halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He noted that just days prior he chaired a UN Security Council meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the threat of North Korea to international security. When asked by a middle school student about what inspires him in his role, the Secretary highlighted his respect for the thousands of talented men and women at the Department who are committed to public service. Recounting the story to Department employees the next day at Town Hall, Secretary Tillerson said, “I told her it’s quite easy. I said the men and women of the State Department inspire me, my colleagues – their professionalism, their commitment, their patriotism.”
The Secretary was joined during the opening ceremony by Ambassador (ret.) Donald Bliss, president of UNA-NCA; Megan Penn, UNA-NCA director of global education; Luis Mendez, a Foreign Service Officer and Una Chapman Cox Fellow; Steve Mirabello, an eighth grade student selected to serve as Secretary-General of the conference; and Nicol Perez, this year’s U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations. The U.S. Youth Observer to the UN program, sponsored by the Department of State, connects American youth to the UN and builds a worldwide network of young leaders to solve shared challenges.
It is our hope that through programs like the Model UN and the U.S. Youth Observer more young Americans will engage in global affairs today and become future leaders in the international community tomorrow.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.
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