Before security concerns heightened, students in Watchung Hills Regional High School’s World Culture classes would spend a day visiting the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City.
A number of factors caused those class visits to the U.N. to be eliminated, so it might have seemed as though living in such close proximity to the world’s peace-keeping body wasn't the advantage it was once.
But even while Watchung Hills social studies students could no longer go to the U.N., but they had the privilege of having a member of that body travel to speak to them last Monday.
Shorna-Kay Richards, a career diplomat with 20 years in the Jamaican Foreign Service, and, since September 2012, Deputy Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations, last week visited the high school and addressed a group of more than 200 World Cultures students and the Model U.N. Club.
The speaker’s organized and fast-moving presentation, enhanced by slides, touched upon many points in the area of diplomacy. She talked about who has been considered the perfect negotiator through the ages, for example. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was one who was assertive, confident, charming, immune to the temptation of women, and, usually, financially robust, she said.
Richards’ extensive background includes the position she holds currently, that of Deputy Representative of Jamaica (Deputy Ambassador) to the U.N., Minister-Counselor in the Jamaican High Commission in South Africa, member of the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the Organization of American States, and later at the American Embassy.
Richards also was Assistant Director for Bilateral Relations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
Richards has managed and promoted Jamaica’s bilateral relations with numerous countries around the world. She represented Jamaica in the multilateral arena.
At the U.N. she’s actively engaged in the negotiations of the Arms Trade Treaty, which is a foreign policy for Jamaica and its Caribbean partners. Her background includes service in Syria, Jerusalem, South Africa, and Washington, D.C.
In modern times, the diplomat, while representing the government, must still have a vast array of connections, Richards noted. That person, while following his or her government’s mandates, must thoroughly understand other cultures, understand how these various governments function, and be interested in people.
The speaker briefly traced the progress of the U.N. since its formal inception on October 24, 1945, the interconnectedness among its 190 members, its structure into General Assembly and Secretariat, its founding principles — the respect for human rights, its peace-keeping mission, its overall purpose of “making the world a better place," she said.
Students followed up with a lively question and answer period followed when Richards’ formal presentation concluded. Richards' remarks and the information she shared will likely find a place in one way or other into the required scrapbooks and course summary debates World History students must present as part of their final grade.
Richards' appearance was coordinated by Mary Sok, social studies teacher. She thanked freshman student Jordan Reynolds for expediting the invitation to the speaker, who is his cousin.