IMG_0313Staff Report by Michelle Chung, Aijah Isaacs, Saskia Ghosh, Annie Booz, Peter Brothers, Colbie Symone Cook

At the Conference on National Affairs, presiding officers primarily guide the conference and preside over debate, but they have two major opportunities to inspire delegates with speeches. Opening ceremony Sunday provides the first of those opportunities. The POs set the tone of the whole conference and gave some specific directives about conference procedures.

Daniel Hayworth, Texas, encouraged us to overcome and conquer. “There are undoubtedly times when each of us has a burning desire to bow our heads and give into our weariness; we want to give into our fears. My challenge to you is to rise anyway,” he said. Hayworth related the story of Jake Allex, a corporal in the U.S army in 1918 faced with the choice to wait for someone else to rescue his platoon while under heavy enemy fire, or save them himself. Allex charged 30 yards with only a bayonet. The story of Allex inspired delegates to make bold choices.

As Missourian Kate Hannick took the podium, she described CONA as “one-of-a-kind experience.”  She stressed the power of the Blue Ridge Spirit, calling it “an attitude and atmosphere that only you, the delegates, can create by being vulnerable, by being caring, genuine and respectful, by lifting up others in a world that too often tears down.” She urged us to use the Blue Ridge Spirit to touch the lives of the 80,000 we each encounter in our life.

Harrison Satcher of Florida talked about the importance of investing time in the people one meets. Although the present focus for many delegates is delivering a proposal, Satcher reminded everyone that “years from now … you’ll be thinking about the friends you made.” Next, he respectfully acknowledged the media staff, the Conference Life Committee, the resource room staff and the adult advisors before acknowledging all the delegates this year at the conference.

Gabrielle Donohoe of Massachusetts focused on how to react to people who you initially are unable to see eye to eye. Telling the crowd to appreciate the differences among us all, Donohoe explained that CONA allows delegates to understand that conflict is not inherently negative. “Your interactions with others would be incredibly dull if we all drew from the same experiences, ideals and beliefs,” she said.

In order to achieve an environment where everyone can respect each other’s differences,  Donohoe expressed the importance of following The Mountain Manual. The manual holds answers to any questions delegates may have regarding the conference as a whole. Reviewing `the manual and following the rules and procedures provided in it will allow for a successful week, despite the differences we all possess.

Ankita Satpathy of New Jersey reminded delegates of the importance proper decorum, professional behavior and organized debate holds especially during committee. All schedules and proposals are in the binder, and delegates should evaluate proposals on the basis of national/international importance, evidence of author research, feasibility, preparation and presentation, and originality. CONA is an opportunity to learn, and delegates should seize their unique chance to grow as people and debaters.

The culminating speaker, Oklahoma’s Luke Davis offered the advice his advisor once gave him: “Plan your work, and work your plan.” Hopefully, this advice will allow us to persevere through the struggles we face during this conference. Even after we leave the mountain, we can follow this motto and work our plan of being the leaders of our world.