Closing Remarks to the Model United Nations
17 FEBRUARY 2007
(First Annual Rockbridge County Model United Nations High School Conference)
Thank you Mrs. Hays for that very kind introduction and for inviting me to speak to this closing session of the First Annual Rockbridge County Model United Nations High School Conference. I congratulate you on joining the large community of high schools across this nation that sponsor Model United Nations conferences because I believe these events provide young people with valuable insight into the world's problems and provide real experience as to the difficulty of resolving differences through diplomacy. Fortunately for me, in 1994 I was assigned as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command and that job forced me to work continuously with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (then our Ambassador at the UN) to work the political-military challenges of the Gulfan experience I will not forget. It is truly difficult workyet exciting, stimulating, and fun.
Whether you go on to a career in international diplomacy or not, your experiences here at the model United Nations forum will serve you well in the future. As you prepared for the debates that are part of this "simulation", you had to conduct in-depth research on your countries and their positions; you had to prepare positions papers; you had to work on your public speaking; you learned rules of procedure; you learned the techniques of caucusing; you developed the skill of writing resolutions, and you were exposed to the art of negotiation and strategy. No matter what career you choose, these are valuable skills that you will use for the rest of your lives, and developing them now will give you an advantage in years to come.
In addition, this UN experience can lead to other activities that actually take you out into the world with its real problems and differences. There are many things you can do after this Model UN has drawn to a close. For example, there are programs for educating orphans at risk, there are internships, there are high school essay and research contests, and there are opportunities to participate in student alliance groups across the nation. In short, this Model UN does not have to be a "one-time experience" for you; it can also be the first step in a series of activities that will engage you more deeply in civics, globalization, and multi-cultural diplomacy. I hope you will take advantage of all the opportunities that are open to you.
Beyond the specific skills I have mentioned, I am sure that this conference has reinforced what you already knew or suspected: this is a complex world that we live in and it is getting more complex with every passing year. The interaction of political, economic, and religious ideas; the competition for scarce resources; the changing business and economic climate; the movements and aging of populations; the growth of technology and rapid developments in communications - all join to make this a complex world. And, the problems that arise from all this can quickly become serious and their solutions are even more complexand they take time.
So, how do we deal with the complexity of our modern world? Here are some suggestions. First, we need to take a deep look at history; we need to thoroughly understand our own national U.S. history and be sensitive to and understand the history and cultures of other nations and peoples. Let me emphasize the need to look "deeply". Although the United States is the oldest continuous democracy on earth, we really are a very young nation, and that sometimes makes it difficult for us to understand nations that are much older than we are. We must avoid the arrogance of being the "comparably" new richrecognizing the "wisdom" of many nations that at one time have had a similar experience or history as ours. Take a deep-long view- of history
Secondly, the next thing we must do - and here I am speaking of what all citizens need to do - is to get involved in our communities. There is no better way to experience, and to begin to understand, the complexity of the modern world than by serving a community. For example, the more you get involved in your community, the more you will see that our country cannot do things alone. Solving the world's problems calls for teamwork, or what politicians call "coalitions." Although the United States is a world leader, our country cannot go it alone; it cannot "police" the world. We must have allies and partners. We learned this the hard way in Vietnam and in the current Iraq Warand (yet) we saw coalitions have success in the first Gulf War, World War II, and Korea. The problems are too large, too complex, and too expensive for one nation or one people to solve.
A third thought --- the world is a stage of sometimes mutually supportive forces and sometimes conflicting forces. The United Nations has major responsibilities to stabilize "competing forces" without bringing national power to bear. It has major responsibilities to find peaceful solutions without endangering national security and strategies. Through the experience you have had in this Model United Nations, you can see the many challenges facing the UN and the potential that it has to solve complex problems through diplomacy. War should always be the last resort. My favor and experience, over 40 years in uniform, is to maintain a strong defense. A strong defense "deters war" and insures stability. Every time we have cut back on our defense, we shortly thereafter have found ourselves in war.exactly what happened in the lead-up to the "current conflict".
And fourth --- if we are to solve complex problems, we must realize that almost all problems and their solutions are "people problems." That means that we must develop and maintain people skills. We need to know how to relate to others who do not share our ideas or values, and we must be comfortable in other cultures. Knowledge of other cultures and knowledge of foreign languages are keys to success here, but so is the need for each person to be a "real person"a genuine person. What I mean by that is that we must be honest and sincere and we must develop that reputation in the arena. Honesty and trust on the world stage is critical, and only those who have itindividuals and countriescan successfully work world issues.
And, finally, we must (also) understand that the "threats" that have been identified in today's world are real threats, perhaps the most dangerous in your and my lifetime, and meeting them and dealing with them will never be simple. We need to address them now.
What are some of these global threats and complex problems that you will be called on to assessand act:
a. Fossil fuels (their need) continuing to dominate the energy scene - oil, natural gas, coal. The demands are principally from the U.S. and China, but also from Western Europe and Japan. The Caspian Sea, Venezuela, West Africa, South China Sea, to the unstable Middle East: these are energy sources involving challenging political and geographical access. There are no silver bullet solutions.
b. Global Aging and Migration of Populations: Most severe in Europe, Russia, and Japan; where half the world's population live and where fertility rates in some countries are not sufficient to replace current populations Some population migration may solve the problem of the declining work force but that brings enormous immigration and cross-border security implications and entails large domestic support system costs.
c. A rise in international terrorism negatively impacting globalization efforts, by fear, with significant business paralysis and security costs, where various terrorist groups may increasingly conduct simultaneous attacks using both dumb and advanced explosives biological and radiological warfare, unmanned, unsophisticated aerial weapons, and with informational "networked" warfare to reach many audiences.
d. Potential for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is great, with delivery from individuals to ballistic and cruise missiles that have increased range, reliability, and accuracy.
e. Asian giants will outpace most western economies with large consumer-driven domestic markets. This is a major focus for new technology and global business and, depending on divisive issues between nations, could challenge our economic security.
f. The security of Israelin the face of an increasingly militant Islamic movement, and the security of Taiwan facing an ever improving Chinese military.
g. And finally, some unknowns: Today we hear about pandemic flu, Global Warming, human rights violations and ethnic cleansing, the rise of a Caliphate advancing a powerful counter-ideology with widespread appeal to international followers, the downturn of economic business in Europe, major technology advancements that displace peoples and cultures, and the serious challenges of such nations as China and Iran.
There are no lack of threats and challenges facing us and the other nations of the world. To return to my opening comments, what we need to meet these challenges is greater understanding and a more resolute determination to solve the problems. In the final analysis, it all comes down to leadership, and leadership comes down to talented, skilled and wise individuals. As the problems increase in complexity, the need for wise leaders becomes ever-greater, especially among those who serve on the international stage. You gain wisdom by serving in the arenalong hours, hard work, in a myriad of world-wide tough assignments.
If you see a future for yourself in international service, here is my advice:
1. Develop leadership traits and strong values that will gain you the trust and respect of others.
2. Gain those skills that will carry you forward: writing, public speaking, reasoning, and what I call a "quiet - excellence" in all that you do.
3. Develop a sixth sense from history that gives you great incite into solving future problems.
4. Develop an understanding and appreciation of other cultures. Develop the ability to feel "at ease" in unfamiliar environments. Travel and visit other countries.
6. Do some service, preferably in military uniform, for a short timeand then move on to your chosen civilian career. The military teaches leadership, provides structure, has an ethical underpinningyou travel, and all this sets one up "for success".
I know that some of you may think that there is little you can do as a high school student. But I strongly disagree. There is much you can do, and you can begin by preparing yourselves to become active citizens in your community, in the nation, and in the world. And, in many ways that is exactly what this group of dedicated and enthusiastic faculty have done for you this week by sponsoring this event, --- a great example of community involvement and the world stage. My thanks to them for their leadershipfor the first step, surely, is education. And you have taken a giant step this weekend with the experience of this Model United Nations. My congratulationsand best wishes!