How Connecting Wyoming to India Challenged Me

Peaks from Cascade Canyon - Grand Teton National Park

This past November, I was asked by Susie Rauch, who runs IC 21, to be the Keynote speaker at the 2011 Teton County Model UN Conference.

I was taken aback by the offer and incredibly honored. I participated in Model UN in high school and the international perspective and coalition building I did in committees enhanced my global outlook as well as illuminated my passion for building consensus around an issue.

As I sat down to write my speech, my mind went blank.

I finally had to call my mom for help with the speech because I had no idea where to start. After speaking with her, I realized that I have been in India and immersed in the development field for such a long time that I have forgotten what people do and do not know about women’s issues and the state of education in developing countries.

I felt extreme pressure to highlight some incredible new idea and was worried that I was not qualified to give this speech. She told me to calm down and write what I know because living and working in India has given me a perspective most people will never have.

I sat back down at my computer and began writing. Overall, I tried to connect Andhra Pradesh, India, to Wyoming. Tough challenge! 

Highlighting the differences in space, population, languages, and civil rights allowed me to connect with my high school audience and keep them interested as I informed them about the problems girls face but also how these same girls can be the solution to cyclical poverty.

With my speech written, I traveled halfway across the world, from 80-degree days in Hyderabad to snow in Wyoming, to deliver my speech to a variety of community groups and high schools before my final presentation at the Model UN Conference.

Before the first presentation, I was sweating bullets.

As the co-founder of an organization that works with adolescent girls and young women, I am not stranger to public speaking. I have run training sessions, lead activities in camp, and given a speech at the closing ceremonies of camp last year.

I was terrified to step in front of the audience and give my speech. 

I’m not going to lie. I started off a bit rocky, but then saw some sparks of interest as I began connecting their state to India as I began to connect them to the globalization that has been transforming this developing country.

I got into a rhythm and my hands started to fly as I told stories about girls in India not much different from the girls sitting in that room. At the end, my stage fear was gone and the students burst into applause after a 1.5 hour presentation (I went a little overboard).

Connecting with those students made the anxiety and multiple drafts worthwhile. I continued to give my presentation and was constantly amazed by the questions the students and community members asked.

They were genuinely curious about my work, VOICE, and the state of girls in India. Speaking at the TCMUN Conference vastly improved my public speaking skills and removed all traces of stage fear but more importantly it gave me an outlet to share what I observe and am challenged by every day:

“My work in India has highlighted how interconnected the world now is and how people can lead happier, more fulfilled lives when they are part of this global dialogue. From the slums of India to classrooms in Wyoming, we are no longer blinded by national barriers but subject to an overwhelming amount of international news. Globalization provides easy access to information, which helps us learn about issues plaguing humanity in developing and developed countries alike. As this information become more prevalent, the concept of global citizenship emerges. People can no longer only be concerned with their nation and those close to them. We must look outwards to all the countries that make up our global community.” ~ Averil Spencer 


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