I saw the leaders of the future in a hotel in The Hague.
When I checked into the hotel, I was disappointed that I would be spending a week far from the city center with snow expected almost every day. I was teaching a leadership class so I would have little time to explore the city. The view out my window was populated by bare trees and a distant skyline.
Yet inside, something amazing was happening. High school children were laughing, sharing laptop screens and loudly debating in many different languages. The excitement in their eyes was enticing. This wasn’t a soccer team or random tourist group. They dressed in suits and carried their laptops with purpose.
They were in The Hague for the MUN–Model United Nations. If you don’t know, the Hague is not only the seat of government for the Netherlands (Amsterdam is the capital but the government sits here), it is the judicial capital of the United Nations, where war criminals are tried and international disputes are arbitrated, hopefully. It is also known as the International City of Peace and Justice.
The Hague Model United Nations is the oldest and largest high school United Nations simulation in the world, gathering 4000 students from over 200 secondary schools across the globe. Students research a country, take on roles as diplomats, investigate international issues, debate, deliberate, consult, and then develop solutions to world problems.
How cool is that? I watched these kids interact for a week, literally having the times of their lives. If our future world leaders were in their midst, I felt both energized and hopeful.
I think it rubbed off. I taught a leadership class to the heads of terminal operations in a shipping company, one that had experienced many cuts and layoffs in the past year. Yet we all left the week feeling energized and hopeful.
I realized that seeing the spirit in the eyes of a child is both uplifting and inspiring.
Maybe the best way of coping with today’s problems is to focus on the possibilities in the future, the innovative ideas of the young (and young-at-heart), and the health of the planet we will soon entrust to them.
I now have an entirely new view of teenagers. I think I’ll go find one to mentor.