Mirror Magazine

Leaders in the making
By Tharangani Perera
Picture this scenario. You are fresh out of an airplane inside a conference room at George Washington University, Washington DC, with 367 strange faces from 81 different countries scrutinising you with intense curiosity. You are about to be taught the politics of the trade, and be exposed to the conflicts of the world. You’re about to meet new friends, and get creamed in debates. Are you excited? You bet. Here you are, a young delegate at the Global Youth Leaders Conference (GYLC), ready to take on the world.

The GYLC is a programme of the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, which is designed to educate, inspire and enlighten youngsters by giving them the tools to experience cultural difference firsthand. It also challenges their leadership and diplomatic skills in an inspiring environment, while the diversity that is created by the presence of 81 different ethnicities facilitates them to think within the global forum.

The significance of the GYLC is the greater understanding it provides for students of their roles as global ambassadors, while analysing the concepts surrounding communications, diplomacy, law, human rights, peace, security, and economics. Additionally, it helps them understand the role of the United Nations within the sovereignty of a nation.

Lakmini Cooray, a 19-year-old student of Bishop’s College, Colombo, who returned home after participating in such a conference told the Mirror Magazine that the GYLC was one of the most enriching experiences of her life. Having had a past participant of the GYLC nominate her for the programme, Lakmini was fortunate enough to participate in a GYLC that was divided between Washington DC and New York City.

“No one knew anything about Sri Lanka; all they knew was that we were affected by the tsunami last year,” said Lakmini, adding that the students at the conference were all fascinated by the cultural aspects of Sri Lanka, while being appalled by the terrorist problems. “It was like a family within our group, where there were representatives from India, the Caribbean Islands, Trinidad, Tobago, United States, Britain, China, Hong Kong, Australia and Puerto Rico. Together we represented Sierra Leone,” she shared.

The overview of a GYLC conference is thus: the students are taken through three basic simulations, the first of which is more or less a caucus among students of respective groups. The second simulation is a bit heavier, and is held in Washington DC, while the third and final simulation (i.e. the global summit) stands as the ultimate showdown, which takes the students to the United Nations headquarters in New York. The conference is also incorporated with a lot of educational fun at the Smithsonian museums, the Vietnamese War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the War Veterans’ Memorial, the Holocaust Museum and the White House. At this particular conference, which Lakmini took part in, the students enjoyed a Broadway play, the Orchestra and caught the famous P. Diddy in action.

The Global Youth Leaders Conference is an experience, which enriches and galvanises students who hold an active interest in the development of their leadership and diplomatic skills. The students who leave home to participate in this programme return as responsible citizens who have a greater understanding of leadership, and their role in the international community. This memorable and life-altering experience should be relished by every future leader of this country.


Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.