NOTE: This post was written by Elaina Estrin, one of the School of Diplomacy’s UN Youth Representatives. Elaina is a student majoring in Diplomacy and International Relations and Modern Languages. Elaina’s focus is on international organizations and post conflict state building. She is fluent in English and Russian and she spent the past summer continuing her Arabic Language studies in in Muscat, Oman. Elaina has interned with the office of Senator Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and taught English in Petrozavodsk, Russia. She has also worked closely with a DC based consulting firm called Field Strategies. Currently she is the head of Public Relations of SHU’s Slavic Club and Vice President for SHU’s International Law Society.
On one of the final days of the International Youth Leaders Assembly (IYLA), government agencies, international organizations, NGO’s, students, and entrepreneurs came together at the United Nations. The theme this year was “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Service and Entrepreneurship.” Every speaker on the high level panel had an important lesson to teach the audience, one of the most important being that we are never done learning and growing. This assembly was different from other events to engage the youth because speakers urged others at the assembly to stand up and connect with others around them. From the beginning of the panel, we were told young adults should never be referred to as future leaders because they are leaders today and should not only sit and listen to the panel at the assembly, but take action.
There are 1.8 billion young people on the earth and they are the leaders and the future of this world. However many of these youths struggle with finding what it is they want to take action for, they struggle with identity. James Flynn, President of the Global Peace Foundation, discussed how despite the United Nations attempts to bring peace, the world is still struggling with poverty, corruption, and violence. This is because we need global action; people from all walks of life to come together with a united goal of achieving sustainable peace. Mr. Flynn spoke about how people know more about war than they do about peace. It is up to us as leaders to show the world that despite our diversities we share a humanness that unites us and makes us want a more peaceful future. He mentioned the reasons why so many young people are drawn to terrorist groups like ISIS. Many of these individuals are struggling with poor living conditions, lack of employment, education or sense of belonging. So groups like ISIS give them a false sense of identity, luring them with a feeling of being a part of something greater than themselves. The biggest change that we can make as youth leaders is to share our views and hope these misled individuals gain hope in a brighter future.
Another speaker that discussed the path to success was the World Trade Center Association (WTCA) Executive Vice President Bella Heule. She gave examples of specific ways young adults can create a connection with someone they would like to work with. One of her most important tips was to set up informational interviews. For many in the crowd, including myself, this was the first time hearing about informational interviews. She said to research the company and the executives you admire and ask them for a short informational interview. Many leaders have busy schedules and although they would like to meet with young adults there is simply no time. Asking for a short fifteen minutes out of their day, is however achievable. Mrs. Heule emphasized preparing questions before hand such as “What is your biggest challenge in your role?” or “What is your organization’s single biggest challenge?” After listening to their answers, we should ask ourselves if we can be the solution. She suggested we be very time conscious to not exceed the time we asked for and end the informational interview by asking what advice the leader has for you and who they suggest you further connect with. Bella took pride in knowing that her interns successfully conduct these informational interviews. She noted these interviews are especially effective if followed up with a thank you note and an email every other month if you hear something that could help or is related to their cause.
Ethics was one of the most recurring topics at this forum. With temptations to act in self-interest, pursuing money and power, one of the biggest challenges is pushing our youth to not only act, but act morally correctly. Leaders who are accountable to the people they help will be the catalysts of change in years to come. So for all of the youth leaders who want to be a part of the decision making process, we should focus on making ethical decisions. Today’s young generation will be the ones to bring implementation into reality. The event was closed with motivational words from Julia Maciel González, a delegate from the Permanent Mission of Paraguay to the UN. She says only we know what we do best and what our passion is. Every individual can be an agent of peace and only we know what we can contribute to sustainable peace. Mrs. González ended by saying all leaders teach with action more than words and action is what strikes people. So it is up to us as leaders of all ages to be informed, spread the knowledge, and connect with diverse groups of people.