Class teaches students about diplomacy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 16, 2005

What’s it like to defend a country that deals in drugs, dictatorship, and other governmental evils? How would we feel if we had to stand in front of others and speak in favor of a nation that denies its citizens the rights to free speech, religion, assembly, and several of the other amenities that we enjoy as Americans?

Well, once in a while, members of the Nansemond River High Model United Nations Club, the only one of its kind in Suffolk, have to find out. At a meeting last November at Christopher Newport University, member Elisabeth Isaacs had to become a makeshift member of the Sudan delegation.

&uot;It’s hard to keep a professional face on when your country has things like drug trafficking,&uot; admitted the junior Lady Warrior, who got her start in Model UN conferencing as a student in Pittsburgh last year. &uot;But I always enjoyed studying other countries and learning about their foreign policies.&uot;

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At club meetings, participants are assigned certain countries to represent at improvised United Nations meetings.

&uot;We try to get students used to the art of diplomacy,&uot; said River government/history instructor Brian Collins, who helped form the club last year with colleague Inga Francis. &uot;We use all the procedures and all the protocols of the United Nations. The students learn how the real world handles issues like war, famine and natural disasters. We try to teach them how to act; instead of shooting each other, is there a way to work it out? Our two main words are negotiation and cooperation, and we hope to get some budding diplomats out of this.&uot;

Christiana Bartolomy helped Isaacs stand for Sudan on the general assembly.

&uot;We talked about the humanitarian crisis,&uot; said the sophomore. &uot;I’ve always been interested in other countries and politics, especially in Africa and Europe.&uot;

At the second meet of the school year in February at Old Dominion University, second-year member Jay Bright represented Poland in a committee of special politics and decolonization.

&uot;We were trying to get people out of other countries and help others become free,&uot; Bright said. &uot;Last year, I was in the same thing, and it was interesting to see how many people had so many different views.&uot;

That was a situation that William Small had to deal with while representing the small European nation of Latvia.

&uot;In real life,&uot; he said, &uot;Latvia always sides with the United States. But the girl representing the U.S. was saying all sorts of things that I, as a person, didn’t agree with, but I still had to act like I did.&uot;

The group hopes to attend the next meet in April at Christopher Newport University.