Commencement Message from our Secretary General, Francisco Santos:
Dearest Delegates, Advisors, Guests, and collaborators,
It is with utmost eagerness and gratitude that I stand here to officially welcome you all to IMMUNS 2020. First and foremost, I’d like to begin by revealing how strange it truly feels to be standing here in front of you all. It was, after all, only six years ago that I sat on one of those chairs as a 6th-grade page in nervous awe; only two years ago that I stood on that back wall, a Secretariat member tasked with organizing IMMUNS for the very first time. While I admit I had dreamt of holding this position for a very long time, in truth, I’d never really given any thought as to what it was I wanted to say–here, now, in front of all of you. How wonderfully strange it feels to be faced with such a remarkable dilemma.
In the spirit of prioritizing the allotted debate time you’re all here for, I’ll try to make this as short and sweet as possible. I’d like to begin by thanking you–all of you–for being here. Attending an event of this magnitude speaks volumes on who you are: as teachers, as students, as organizers, but above all–as human beings. And I suppose, in a sense, this is what I really want to get into. When the time came to reflect upon the trials and tribulations of bringing this event to life, I realized that–above all, organizing and attending an MUN simulation involves forgetting–to a certain degree. Because, at times, we are so caught up in the academic hassle of reading background papers, writing position papers, and honing our debate skills, that we forget why it is that we do what we do. And why do we do what we do? I found myself riddled with this question for a very long time. I theorized for days, but–as is usually the case with questions of this nature–the answer made its way to me. In the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” I believe that–beyond all those sleepless nights and early mornings, beyond the long flights you’ve endured and the weekends you’ve spent delegating, this belief is a testament to the value of Model UN. Because it’s true–it would be very easy for us to live a life of blissful ignorance, oblivious to the privilege that cushions our day-to-day and reluctant to read a newspaper or open a book. But, delegates, I urge you to take Dr. King’s words to heart. It is a far braver and nobler deed to choose to acknowledge the sameness that binds human beings–to understand that the burdens we carry, the dreams we hold and the issues we face are universal. To know this and act upon it–to debate, to inspire, to transcend, is what makes us human. It is what you are practicing. It is who you are.
When you walk out of the auditorium today, I hope you do not become entrenched in the messy politics of forgetting. The issues you are about to discuss–from sectarian violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, to the Philippine drug war, to Big Pharma–are distant, but wholly and utterly real. Yes, delegates, this is a simulation–but, this year, let it also be a catalyst. For progress, for rage, for poetry, for politics and for the future. It starts here. It starts now, and it starts with you.