Mt. Lebanon High School senior Daniel McNulty, Newburn Drive, served as junior commissioner for the Fall 2019 term. He was a municipal intern in 2018 and is a member of the high school’s Model U.N., which has racked up an impressive count of victories, most recently taking first place overall in a 70-school tournament at American University in Washington, D.C. He plans to pursue a career in government.
What is the Model U.N.?
Model U.N. is a generic name for a type of group-based diplomacy, debate and writing competition. Participants adopt a real-world role and work with dozens of other students to construct and debate solutions to problems. While we simulate United Nations meetings, the name actually includes all kinds of scenarios—historical, like the 1815 Congress of Vienna; governmental, like the Cabinet of Sudan; and sometimes hypothetical, like a modern-day Constitutional Convention. Model U.N. is a way for high school students to learn the skills of public speaking, persuasion, and drafting and deconstructing arguments. Most importantly, the competitive aspect provides some amount of pressure on all participants to do their best—a feature which can turn an interesting exercise into a life experience.
What kind of skill set does a successful Model U.N. delegate need?
One of my favorite things about Model U.N. is that there’s no simple answer to that question. There’s more than one way to win a committee, and the most successful delegates always cultivate their own unique combination of skills and strategies. I’ve gotten pretty good at learning how to answer questions in a way that reassures people. With that in hand, I can usually defend any challenge to my ideas. Other people I know have mastered the art of a commanding speech, or know how to convert anyone to their ideas if they’re given a one-on-one opportunity. Every Model U.N. delegate needs to be able to stand up and speak, and know how to be persistent. Beyond that though, there are as many paths to victory as there are people.
In your opinion, what makes a good argument?
The arguing that happens at Model U.N. is less deliberative than you might expect. What makes a good argument there is the ability to be flexible, responsive and especially, to be able to make smooth parries to challenges. At the end of the day, the best arguments are the ones people understand and can defend. The worst ones are the ones which don’t have answers to the issues people bring up.