Local News Archive
Print Issue: July 4, 2002
United Nations' Experience Enriches End Of High School Career
By ELEANOR SEGRAVES, Special To The Bulletin
Graduating from high school is something I have wanted since the first day of my freshman year at St. Pius. I ran through graduation in my head over and over again...shaking my principal's hand, taking my diploma, shaking the archbishop's hand and walking across the stage with a smile on my face, knowing that it was time for me to embark on an adventure I could call my own.
But my last few weeks didn't quite match up with what actually happened.
While all 235 of my classmates were still in school, I was at the United Nations in New York City for a conference on the rights of children, as a "press" representative for Hombre Nuevo, a California-based Catholic radio station.
Our 50-person group was comprised of three students from Atlanta, four from Louisiana, two from the Washington, D.C. area, four from Canada and the rest from either Monterrey or Mexico City, Mexico. (While in the conference) we would make one voice based on solid principles and morality. Our voice was the one sheep that was sent in the midst of wolves, but the Lord says, "When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Mt 10:19-20)
Walking down Second Avenue, Marcella, the leader and organizer of the entire trip, said, in both Spanish and English, "Stop right here. From this point on, English speakers, you don't know the Spanish speakers, Canadians, you don't know the Louisiana girls. Everyone must stay with their small groups and you are not to even look at another group member with the slightest hint of recognition." After these instructions we went our separate ways silently praying for a miracle. We passed through metal detectors and security personnel, through the revolving doors and into the United Nations building where we were directed to Conference Room 4, the very room where the U.N. delegates meet to discuss issues and problems of the world. But this day the room was not filled with delegates, but with children of all nationalities and races. There were so many languages being spoken at once and so much diversity that I just stood there for a moment to take it all in.
We found out names of people, the groups they represented, and what their issues were. All this would be important so we could know the wolves from the sheep.
Day two was the press conference. This was our day to be in the spotlight. At the door of the pressroom, only a few people were let in at a time, but eventually our entire group was admitted. As we sat quietly waiting for the youth panelists to come out and answer questions, I noticed that in every chair and leaning against the wall were all the people I wasn't supposed to know, and, quite humorously, there were less than 10 that I actually didn't know. One can imagine the outcome of the questioning when all the panelists were pro-contraception, pro-abortion, and pro "population control." A room that was supposed to be filled with a diverse group of young journalists was overrun by 50 Catholics on a mission from God. It is safe to say the panelists left irritated, frustrated and confused because they had been proven wrong.
Every day, each of the seven small groups that made up Hombre Nuevo was assigned different caucuses to attend, some more controversial than others. We attended meeting after meeting. From the outside one might say that our small group was outnumbered and we were wasting our time standing up for such things as chastity rather than contraception, life rather than abortion, the family rather than the independent child. For the first few days, we too felt alone and discouraged, but then things started to happen that we couldn't explain. Representatives hunted us down from organizations that didn't support what we were saying. It became harder and harder to be admitted into meetings and it was a strain for some of our leaders to even be seen with us.
The final day came for the document to be passed and to our complete and utter amazement, the three issues we came to fight had been changed in favor of life. "Sexual and reproductive heath services" was dropped from the document completely, "families" was changed to "family" meaning mother and father only, and "gender" was specified as male and female only. The reason for this sudden change in morality within the document, although we would like to say it was all our doing, was because of Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and President George W. Bush and their abstinence-only stance. Their refusal to sign the document caused the world to freak out. They freaked out because the most powerful country in the world stood up for something that no one else wanted. Their stance caused the outcome of children's lives to be altered. The list of countries that followed suit was enough to change the wording of a highly controversial document in favor of a true family, and of true children's rights.
From the outside, no, our little group didn't do much, but from the inside we changed people's minds from "I'm right, there's no other way" to "I'm right, but maybe they are too." The point of this article is not so those reading can be proud of all our group accomplished and say, "wow, those kids did a great job," because our job isn't completed. The point is change can happen.
Our group entered the United Nations as one sheep amongst wolves and we had no idea what we would say or do, but by leaving everything in the Lord's hands, what we did and said helped to change the way society views life. It took the president of the United States to alter the outcome of a worldwide document, but we can change things on a smaller scale. Too many people sit back and say, "Someone else will do it." I propose a challenge for myself and for everyone, and that is to be that "someone else."
Eleanor Segraves, a parishioner of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, is a 2002 graduate of St. Pius X High School. She will attend Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, in the fall.