unspecified-3By Michelle Chung, MA

As I sat on a Eureka Hall rocking chair, feeling the light breeze against my skin, hearing the birds and quiet chatter of other delegates around me, and gazing into the comforting Blue Ridge Mountain, a series of emotions washed over me. Joy. Inspiration. Nostalgia. Comfort. The most important: pride.

Pride for my delegation – for welcoming me and accepting who I was (including my flaws). For listening to each other’s struggles and successes in a loving way, even when it wasn’t during a roundtable. For being my support system and family that I could go to no matter what.

Pride for those around me, regardless of where they came from – for having the courage to put their opinions and values out into the open (in a devotional or a speech) and be accepting of their unique self. For making the effort to say hello to a complete stranger and connect with those from other delegations. For being present, for working their plan, and for proving to the world that age does not define intelligence or one’s capabilities.

Pride for myself – a feeling I never truly experienced until my time at CONA. After a week of long days and busy nights, I felt fulfilled as though I actually made an impact. I felt proud of myself, and I felt valued.

Every delegate at this conference, where the best of the best come together to discuss the most pressing issues of our nation, should take pride in their desire to make a change. You have shown an interest in the state of this country some adults fail to have, and you have taken proactive measures to change the world. You have been caring, honest, respectful and responsible. You have shown that you want to better the world we live in – and after this conference, undeniably, you should be proud of yourselves.