From MUN to the Real United Nations
My most memorable experience at AUC was also one of the most defining experiences of my life. It happened more than 11 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
The Cairo International Model United Nations (CIMUN) program was the largest student-run program of its kind at AUC and across the Middle East at the time, and we were celebrating its 10th anniversary, with more than 500 participating students from Egypt and abroad.We had worked so hard and so long preparing for this event.The secretariat and organizing committee of the conference, composed of 60 enthusiastic volunteers, spent countless hours in the little office allocated to us on the Greek Campus, making friendships that will certainly last a lifetime while researching United Nations rules, writing background papers, preparing sessions, interviewing delegates, designing and editing publications, monitoring expenditures, seeking sponsors and raising funds, linking our work to community development, engaging the media and having animated debates with Dr. Sullivan.The list of what we had to do was endless, but so was our energy, commitment and the belief in what we were doing.
During the long months of preparation, I continuously wondered how I would feel when it all came together.And finally, the moment arrived. It was Tuesday, March 10, 1998. The mild Cairo winter was turning into a warm pleasant spring evening, and the AUC Main Campus was buzzing with activity. Security guards, press officers, police escorts, students, parents, ministers, ambassadors and other visitors were all coming and going in a flurry, getting ready for the opening ceremony and the arrival of our keynote speaker, Egypt’s First Lady H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak.And I was getting ready to deliver a speech in front of this crowd of more than 1,000 people as secretary-general of CIMUN ’98. It was time for me to summarize the journey we had taken over the past months, what we had learned along the way and what we hoped to achieve in the days ahead.Time to articulate what all this meant to my team and me.Time to demonstrate leadership.
I still remember getting up onto the podium and feeling my hands shake as I took out my speech.The glaring lights were so strong I could hardly see anyone in the audience. I began to speak, and I could hear my voice quiver. I squinted against the spotlights and finally made out a few familiar faces from within the crowd –– some smiling members of the team.They were looking at me with such high expectations as I stood there next to the first lady, representing them.As my eyes got used to the light, I caught a glimpse of my parents and brother, and I saw the elation they felt at seeing me up there. I couldn’t let any of them down. So I took a deep breath,mustered every ounce of confidence and courage I had in me, recalled all the public speaking skills I had learned over the years and delivered my speech with pride and conviction.As I concluded my statement, the shower of applause from the audience took me by surprise.And as the crowd rose to their feet, I could not believe my eyes.
That moment was a turning point in my life. I came out of Ewart Hall that evening feeling that I could do anything I wanted, that the sky was the limit, that I could achieve all my dreams of making the world a better, more just place.And indeed, a few months later, I joined the real United Nations, where I have been working for 11 years now, roving between Cairo, Beirut, Geneva, Baghdad, Damascus,Amman and other cities, still trying to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable, trying to be an agent of positive change in our complex region, trying to uphold the principles of justice and human rights for all. Looking back now, I remember my days at AUC, and this experience in particular, with a smile.And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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