Madisen is a third year English student, currently working with the Faculty of Arts as the Arts Work Experience Communications and Program Support Intern. The opportunity to attend the Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders was promoted in one of the September editions of the undergrad student newsletter. This past November Madisen attended the conference with some financial assistance from the Green & Gold Grant. In Madisen’s own words, here’s what the experience of attending this international conference meant to her.
In the 9th grade I won a Global Citizenship award. At the time I had no idea what it meant, or what I did to earn it, so I asked the principal and he simply said, “I guess we’ll find out!”
That interaction has been replaying in my mind the past couple days while being here in Bangkok, helping represent Canada at the Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders.
During the conference we heard from the most incredible speakers and had insightful conversations. Listening to people who have lived through war, persecution and genocide, I lived their stories and felt their pain through their words. And while each individual story is unique, their message is consistent and concise. Holding grudges and anger inside can never create positive change. Education saves lives. Learning heals pain and ends suffering.
Aside from hearing from the incredible speakers, what I loved about this conference was each delegate being united by a common cause; finding a way to create sustainable peace. Where you came from and what you had experienced did in fact matter. Each individual's experience brought something new to the table, and helped to enrich the group's collective experience. We opened our minds, and our eyes to try and live through the experiences of those around us.
I think any time you travel, and open yourself up to experiencing different cultures and ways of life you learn and grow as a person. I realized that as much I am well versed on political and cultural happenings in North America, the world is so much bigger than that, and that I need to begin to look beyond my own backyard if I truly want to be a global citizen. Having grown up in Canada, and proceeding to live the entirety of my life here, I often forget how privileged we are, and that not everyone shares that common experience.
The most actionable thing I took away from this experience was to always make the choice to live peacefully in my own life. It wasn’t necessarily a new lesson, but it’s one that I had never taken as seriously, or fully understood, before this conference. We are often conditioned to believe kindness is weakness, or that forgiving someone means admitting some kind of loss, but after hearing from the speakers at the summit, I now know that that is the opposite of the truth. Forgiveness is hard, and finding it in yourself to let go of any hatred you hold is the opposite of weak. This conference was a reminder that no matter how painful a situation might be, holding onto anger and resentment does not, and will not, make things better. We must continually work towards building a more peaceful and grounded future.
I am also still in contact with one of the speakers, Rahila Haidary, a Taliban survivor and advocate for equality and women's right to education, and am volunteering with her social enterprise start up. I never would have imagined I would ever get the opportunity to work with such an incredible and brave woman out of this conference, but when you embrace opportunities the world opens up to you.
My best advice to any student wanting to pursue their personal (or professional) development would be to be open to any and all opportunities because, as I just mentioned, you never know where they will lead you. I believe the pursuit of personal development is essential to a well rounded and holistic education, and the Green and Gold Grant enabled my pursuit of exactly that.
What I didn’t know when I was 14 was that being a global citizen isn’t something to take lightly, and it’s not an easy task. It means keeping your mind, and your heart, open the to world and listening to those around you. Being a global citizen means working towards building a better, more inclusive and accepting world, where others are free to make their own choices, and then respecting those choices. And above all else, it means seeing the people around you as human, no matter how different you believe you may be.
Edited for length and clarity, January 2019.
There’s also a 2 minute video where Madisen Gee (English), Peiv Mohammed (Political Science), Jenny Huang (Human Geography) and Idara Effiom (Psychology) discuss their trip!