Lori Parrent
Secretary to Gen. Peay

P: (540) 464-7311
F: (540) 464-7660
E: parrentlr@vmi.edu

201 Smith Hall
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, VA 24450

Remarks to the Model United Nations


6 MARCH 2010, Crozet Hall
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 session of the annual Rockbridge County Model United Nations High School Conference…a wonderful forum…my congratulations…and my “admiration” and thanks to the organizers, instructors, and students for their leadership in this imitative.

My position with U.S. CENTCOM entailed working “continuously” with our Secretary of State, our Ambassador at the UN, and our Defense Department and National Security Staffs to address the challenges facing the Gulf states, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Eastern Africa and the contiguous waters of the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf…an experience I will not forget.  It was truly difficult work…yet exciting, stimulating, and…frankly, fun.  I could not wait to get up each morning, study the intelligence books from the previous day, and plan for the future.

 Your participation in this Model UN no doubt 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. 

 There are some reasons for this: population growth is placing extreme demands on space and resources;  information now travels at the speed of light around the world and anyone with a cell phone or computer is plugged into this network; transportation has shrunk the world; modern weapons can have incredibly devastating and wide-spread effects; the consequences of our modern technology and industry are affecting our environment and the way we live as never before…and enormous global economic challenges. 

 So, how do we deal with the complexity of our modern world?  We deal with it through leadership, knowledge, understanding, and the ability to see how things are “connected.”  This means that there are things we need to do:   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 rich…recognizing the “wisdom” of many nations that at one time have had a similar experience or history as ours.  In sum, take a “deep-long” view- of history.

Second, 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 War…and (yet) we saw coalitions have success in the first Gulf War, World War II, and Korea.  The problems are too large, and too expensive for one nation or one people to solve.

 Third, the world is an arena 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 conflicts”.

 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 are critical, and only those who have it…individuals and countries…can 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 face us today and will continue to face us for years to come?  Here are some:

a. Competition for fossil fuels (their need) continuing to dominate the energy scene – oil, natural gas, coal. 

 b. Global Aging and migration of populations: 

b. A rise in international terrorism negatively impacting globalization efforts, by fear, with significant business paralysis and security costs,

 d. Potential for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
 e. Asian giants outpacing most western economies with large consumer-driven domestic markets. 

 f.  The security of Israel…in the face of an increasingly militant Islamic movement, and the security of Taiwan facing an ever improving Chinese military.

 h. 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 the U.S. and Europe, major technology advancements that displace peoples and cultures, and the serious challenges of such nations as Korea, 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 arena…long hours, hard work…, learning…in a myriad of world-wide tough assignments.

 If you see a future for yourself in international service, here is my advice:

 1. Inform yourself of the world around you and, as you are doing in this Model UN conference; inform yourself of the national and international agencies dedicated to international service. Read books and news magazines, not just postings on the Internet.

 2.  Develop your leadership traits and strong values that will gain you the trust and respect of others.  Maintain your health --- mentally and physically.

 3.  Gain those skills that will carry you forward:  writing, public speaking, reasoning, listening, … let me stress listening, and what I call a “quiet – excellence” in all that you do. 

 4.  Learn from history and develop an understanding of how lessons learned from history can help in solving today’s and future problems.
 5. Develop an understanding and appreciation of other cultures. Develop the ability to feel “at ease” in unfamiliar environments. Travel and visit other countries. Learn a foreign language; with modern methods and technology, it has never been easier to do. 

 6. Grow.

 7. Perform public service, preferably in military uniform, for a short time…and, then, move on to your chosen civilian career.  The military teaches leadership, provides structure, has an ethical underpinning…you travel, and all this sets one up “for success.”

 8.  Be yourself.  No ego; self effacing and always “on-parade”.

 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 yourselves 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.

 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.  My thanks to them for their leadership…for the first step, surely, is education. 
 My congratulations and best wishes.