Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What's In a Story?

by Heather Hill, Co-Chair, Human Rights Committee

Last week, members and friends of the UNA-NCA celebrated an incredible legacy together at the book launching of UNA-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action."

UNA-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action documents this outstanding legacy with pieces from previously unpublished letters, documents, images, and interviews. This project was initiated and directed by former UNA-USA President and CEO, Edward Elmendorf. James Wurst, a UN journalist and analyst of much renown, took the lead on writing, in collaboration with Dulcie Leimbach of Pass-Blue, who joined the project as editor and fellow researcher. The Tuesday night event included a reception, book signing, remarks from all the contributors as well as current UNA-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley and UNA-NCA President, former US Ambassador Donald Bliss, and a panel discussion and question time with the audience. 

"It's remarkable, the influence that individuals [in UNA-USA] had with almost no recognition," Wurst commented in his remarks. And indeed, the pages of the book teem with stories of tireless advocacy, wearying travel, and little reward beyond the personal satisfaction that UNA-USA members and leaders over the years found in their mission and their efforts. In fact, it is notable that at the beginning, the UNA-USA executive director had a number of meetings with President Roosevelt, working closely with him towards the creation of what became the United Nations.

One of the most wonderful aspects of the event was the clear understanding that this book will not be the "Complete" history of UNA-USA, but rather, an incredibly inspiring collection of stories leading up to these past few years. Already, there are more stories to be written and more currently unfolding as the chapters of UNA-USA are alive across the States and UNA's in different countries - span across the world. It was inspiring, not only to hear some of the stories from history at this event, which I promptly dived into, but to know that the room was full of people who are continuing this history. A UNA-USA history at Seton Hall University will enrich the history further with UNA-USA documents and transcriptions of interviews undertaken for the book. Further oral history contributions are planned. 

"You know it. You lived it. You made it happen. - This is your history," Wurst stated, and he is right. The book is surprising, fascinating, and deeply inspiring--and the time is still ours. UNA-USA is the story of absolutely ordinary people doing extraordinary things together. That's inspiring in itself, and that is why I am proud to be a member, proud to belong to such an auspicious group of dedicated civilians and public servants, and proud to be part of the legacy--the ongoing history--outlined in the book.