8 Things You Learn at Your First Leadership Summit

By Mary Catharine McKeithen

As a newcomer to both GenUN and the Leadership Summit, I didn’t quite know what to expect from those three days in June. Little did I know I would learn skills I will carry with me for the rest of my career.

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1. People travel from all over to come to the Leadership Summit

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For this year’s Leadership Summit, members from 40 states gathered to share their passion and enthusiasm for the UN. Standing at the check-in table, I could see just how far and long people had traveled to get to the Summit, showing just how dedicated they were to this cause.

2. Personal connections come in the most surprising forms

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I never thought I would sit down next to a professor who teaches at a school 5 blocks from where I grew up in my first breakout session. With so many people with such a wide variety of backgrounds, you are bound to find some sort of connection with everyone.

3. You will want to go to every breakout session, but it’s not physically possible

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Believe me, I tried. With topics from UN 101 to Ebola to refugee issues, they all sound so interesting! I found it was better to choose one for each block and really dive deep into the issue to try to get as much out of it as possible.

4. You will fangirl hard over the guest speakers

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President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson. Hamilton actress, Samantha Ware. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour. President and CEO of the UN Foundation, Kathy Calvin. Need I say more?

5. Everyone has a story of why they joined UNA. Each one is amazing.

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Be it coming from a family of refugees or having served as a peacekeeper, each reason for joining UNA was so unique and special. I felt honored to be working with such enthusiastic people.

6. Figure out how to strike up a conversation with a stranger

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See lessons 2 and 6. Your experience will be so much more enjoyable and substantive if you use the time to network and meet people with the same passions.

7. Advocacy Day is super empowering

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Nothing drives home the power of democracy quite like sitting in a meeting on Capitol Hill with Congressman or congressional staffer, advocating for strong U.S. involvement in the UN.

8. You will leave motivated and ready to change the world

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I will not be forgetting the lessons I learned at the Leadership Summit anytime soon. I guarantee you won’t either.

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