THE BUZZ 4: Prophetic Pupils

By on November 22, 2016

Members of the student populace have advice for today’s leaders.

JHHS senior Anna Gibson, chair of the Model United Nation’s High Commission on Refugees. (Photo: Jessica Sell Chambers)

JHHS senior Anna Gibson, chair of the Model United Nation’s High Commission on Refugees. (Photo: Jessica Sell Chambers)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – While world leaders met in Marrakech for the COP22 climate summit last week, more than 200 students from Wyoming and Idaho converged at the Jackson Hole High School for the Teton County Model United Nations Conference. In the wake of the presidential election, the ability to appreciate different perspectives took on a new meaning for the delegates, who had specific advice for the incoming POTUS. The students’ viewpoints reflect a rising movement of politically engaged young people seemingly more energized in response to the election.

Students gathered in part to understand the international system, practice diplomacy, negotiate solutions to world problems, and to do so while remaining in the character of their assigned country. The keynote speaker, student delegates, teachers, and program advisors cited how the skills worked on at the conference were more important now than ever. The timing of President-elect Donald Trump’s promises to walk away from various international commitments made the conference particularly relevant for its young participants.

From the Marrakech climate summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged Trump to stay the course with the Paris Agreement on climate change that 180 countries painstakingly negotiated last year. Trump has said he will pull the United States out of the historic international agreement to cut carbon emissions.

Andreas Olvera is student secretary-general. A senior at the Journeys School, Olvera has participated in many MUN conferences over the years. Olvera shared Ki-Moon’s words of advice, saying he thinks Trump’s recoil from the Paris Agreement is a preposterous notion. Citing post-isolationist China’s thriving economy and the Soviet Union’s collapse due to isolationism Olvera said, “If you look at the history of geopolitics, nations that tend to thrive are those that are able to work with and connect with other nations.”

Admittedly “Pro-UN,” Olvera noted, “For all my disagreements with President-elect Trump, it’s so important we all listen to each other. That’s in the spirit of what we do here at the Teton County Model UN.”

JHHS junior and TCMUN undersecretary of operations Aaron Trauner said he too disagrees with Trump’s promise to back out of the Paris Agreement. Trauner says he sides with the many scientists and people around the world who believe fighting climate change is crucial to humanity’s existence and well-being. “A step in the right direction is better than no step at all,” he said.

“Listen to your experts,” urged Bridget Murphy, TCMUN security council chair , when asked what advice she would offer Trump. Discussing her council’s struggle to tackle international counter-terrorism measures, the JHHS senior said listening to the needs of other countries is also paramount in moving any issue forward. Regarding climate change, Murphy said it’s clearly a global issue and not just matter of what’s best for the U.S.

President-elect Trump is likely to fast track extraction measures and oil pipelines, which flies in the face of Native American “water protectors” presently trying to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. In October The Guardian explained Trump’s financial ties to the hotly contested pipeline: Trump’s financial disclosure forms show the Republican nominee has between $500,000 and $1M invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1M holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25 percent stake in the Dakota Access project once completed.

JHHS Senior Abby Brazil chaired the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund. Rights of indigenous children were their first topic of debate. Brazil cautioned that indigenous peoples were first inhabitants of our nations and they are owed honor and respect.

TCMUN keynote speaker Kathleen Thomas, a human rights attorney from New York who reported to the UN on human rights violations in India and Haiti, Brazil, reminded students that human rights are inherent and inalienable.

This notion resonated with Brazil. “Making America great again, you also need to make the world great as a whole,” she said.

On the subject of refugees, Trump has said he supports extreme vetting to prevent terrorists from slipping through the cracks. Chair of the UN High Commission on Refugees and senior at JHHS, Anna Gibson said Trump focused a lot of his campaign on refugees and the threats they may pose to the U.S. Gibson said she understands there are minimal dangers with harmful people getting through the refugee process but “there are people who really need our help and we can provide for them.” Caring for refugees, people who have fled their home country out of extreme danger or fear for their lives, is an obligation, she said. “It’s really scary to see someone who doesn’t cooperate well and who alienates people based on gender, orientation, job or religion. “

Gibson also participated in the Washington Area Model UN Conference at American University this past spring. She said she was awed by student participants. Today’s leaders, she said, could benefit from listening to the student work at these conferences. At WAMUNC, which simulates organizations outside the scope of the UN, Gibson was a member of the Democratic National Committee. Students there wrote a party platform and chose a nominee.

“We chose to support Elizabeth Warren. How different would this election have been had the DNC chosen to go with Elizabeth Warren? Could it have been different?” Gibson paused, “It may have been different.” PJH

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