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Diplomacy and Debate in the Upper School

UPDATE (1/30/17) The team continued their winning ways at the Ivy League Model UN Conference at U Penn, with the following commendations:

BEST DELEGATE to EMMITT SKLAR representing Helmut von Gerlach in the Ad Hoc Committee. This committee was the most elite in the conference. It was open by invitation only. The scenario was that Germany had won World War I, and they were meeting to decide the fate of defeated Europe at a peace conference in 1919.

HONORABLE MENTION: to MERRY P. representing the Vatican in Social, Cultural & Humanitarian Committee

HONORABLE MENTION: to MILES N. representing the Vatican in the Historical General Assembly, 1946.

HONORABLE MENTION: to SOPHIA L representing Elisa Bonaparte in the Crisis Committee “Bonaparte Family Dinner”


The BFS Model United Nations team has gone from strength to strength in the 2016-17 academic year. Most recently, the group won the Best Small Delegation award at Columbia University’s Model UN, in which thousands of high school students participate. Next up for this dynamic group is the Ivy League Model United Nations Conference to be held Jan. 26-29in the City of Brotherly Love, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania.

In October, the “Terrific Ten” of the team competed in a grueling day-long meet at Horace Mann. Four of our Upper Schoolers received rewards. Emmitt S. ’17 represented the notorious and controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover on the United States Security Council, 1948, an Historical Crisis committee, for which he was named Best Delegate. Nat E. sat on the Historical Crisis Committee representing the Chinese Communist Party of 1945, and ninth graders Merry P. and Alyssa W. represented Turkey on the Historical Economic and Social Councils Committee and the UN High Commission for Refugees, respectively. All three received Honorable Mentions.

 

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For those not familiar, “Model UN is an activity where people from all over the world come to one place to simulate the United Nations,” explained Merry. “We’re given countries or people to represent who we research, we then go into a committee where our goal is to push the ideas of that country or person, and have them put formally into a resolution that the majority of the other countries or people there agree with.”

Merry has been involved with the team since seventh grade “because it’s an activity unlike any others that I know of. It challenges you both intellectually and socially as you make solutions to problems that both promote your views but are diplomatic enough to have others accept them. The greatest personal reward of Model UN for me is improving my ability to speak publicly, use diplomacy, and have a chance to meet new people.”

She sees herself pursuing a career in politics “and hopefully have some sort of meaningful effect on the world,” she said, “and the art of diplomacy is an important component of that. What better way to learn than in a competitive, entertaining environment?”

The BFS team as a whole also received Honorable Mention after going up against Model UN stalwarts Bergen County Academies and the Dalton School. “To put our performance in context,” said Upper School History teacher Vlad Malukoff, the Model UN adviser, “Bergen County Academies is ranked in the top 25 Model UN teams in the United States and Dalton is a perennial Top Ten team.”

Senior Emmitt has been involved with Model UN since ninth grade and became team co-captain last year along with classmate Miles N. ’17. The duo are filling huge shoes left by alums Abraham Axler ’14 and Ben Waldman ’14. Abraham, now a Presidential Scholar at the University of Virginia, has already made a designated gift to BFS for students who excel at Model UN. The Samuel Pemberton Award for Diplomatic Excellence is a cash award to any student who wins Best Delegate, Outstanding Delegate and Honorable Mention.

“I enjoy the opportunity to meet people from around the world as well as the chance to explore different aspects of international affairs and history,” said Emmit of his passion. “Model UN has inspired my interests in international affairs, economics, and political science and those are topics I plan to pursue in college.”

The club has been gaining in popularity in the Upper School for the past several years. On a special evening last May, some 40 BFS students, parents and faculty paid $10 each to gather in the Upper School cafeteria for the first BFS Model UN fundraising dinner. The appropriately named International Night featured a pot luck dinner prepared by the fifteen current Model UN students and their families. The evening was organized by team member Amanda B. ’18 and her family. Vlad was effusive in his praise for the financial and social success of the event. “We had food from Poland, Italy, China, Spain, Korea, Nigeria, Vietnam, Guyana, Tibet, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Germany, Jewish Eastern Europe and Haiti,” he said, rolling off the countries and cultures.

Amanda’s family also arranged for a stellar guest speaker, former US State Department official Jonathan Brecht. Born and raised in New York City, Brecht spent his career in the US Foreign Service. He studied Arabic and Middle East affairs, and worked for the State Department’s Near East Asian Bureau in Saudi Arabia and Washington. He was involved in high level decision-making as it related to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, oil policies and pricing, terrorism, the influence of religion on regional politics and Palestinian-Israeli relations among other, often contradictory, areas of US foreign policy.

“It’s a great way to bring the community together and learn about the world in a real way,” said Vlad of Mr. Brecht’s presentation. “Our media is dominated by either the liberal-interventionist worldview or the neo-con worldview. Jonathan stressed that we need more of a realist perspective which is not even represented in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post or New York Times.

Model UN is considered an SLA, or Student Led Activity, at the school. Senior class parents recently announced that their 2017 Senior Legacy Gift would be funding to continue and expand SLAs at the school. The endowment is meant as a meaningful way for parents to recognize their child’s achievements and to honor their place in BFS history.

At the same time it acknowledges the exceptional opportunities students have enjoyed here and helps make certain that such opportunities are available to future students. This year’s SLAs include Debate, Environmental/Earth Day, Exercise & Fitness, Film, Gay-Straight Alliance, P.E.A.C.E., WordFlirt, Youth Action Project, El Club Latino and, of course, Model UN and many others.