By Leah Schweibinz, NC

Our presiding officers, our conference director and the chief executive officer of the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly each brought something powerful and profound to the opening session this morning.

Shantell Williams urged each of us to ask why. As a delegate, she sat in her second committee strongly supporting a proposal, and yet remained silent. So she asked herself, why? In a coordinating theme, Conference Director Sam Adams encouraged us to ask why not? He talked of Jimmy Carter and his experience in the U.S. Naval Academy. Although Carter was in the top 7 percent of his class, he was truly unhappy and then he realized he hadn’t tried his best. Carter was asked, “why not?” The question haunted him.

Ben LeZebnik reminded us that it takes two to tell the truth. Although we have many differences – race, political beliefs, what states we come from, our socioeconomic classes and many more – we are all given this incredible opportunity to come together as one in hopes of the betterment of our nation, he said. Next, Kurt Eckel told us how the Blue Ridge Assembly began. Willis Duke Weatherford founded the assembly in 1906. Weatherford was highly involved in Christian organizations and speaking to young adults in hopes of helping them grow. He traveled all over the country and realized one day that he spent more time on the train than he did actually helping individuals.
Weatherford’s idea: a centrally located place where young adults from all over our country could come together and take time away from the day-to-day to spend time with our creator and His creation.

Our life is many separate journeys, said our PO of the day, Nicole Zatorski. She urged us to recognize the beauty of the Blue Ridge Spirit, take advantage of this conference, be positive and face our obstacles.
Ben Jackson pointed out that Winston Churchill is remembered for his inspiration and not the fault of his earlier self, much like the CONA delegates. CONA delegates are the best of the best, and he stressed that we are all qualified.

Caroline Tervo welcomed us home and relaxed us all by asking us to simply take a deep breath. She encouraged us to really experience every single moment and to get the full experience of this short, fleeting conference. Don’t forget, we are all #blessed.

Lastly, Patrick Flanigan told us the story of his first year on the mountain. Believe it or not, he confessed he was a shy and intimidated, freshman boy. Scared and silently going through the lunch line, an older girl took a genuine interest in his story. That is the true beauty of CONA. People from all walks of life join together on this remarkable mountain and take a genuine interest in each other. Be the act of kindness that is never forgotten.