Looking in, looking out, looking forward
Conleth is a first year Law student at the University of Oxford. Whether as a trustee of Armoy Community Association; as coordinator of the Armoy Summer Scheme; as a youth leader for the Focolare Movement; or as part of the Shared Education Program: he has worked tirelessly to bring people together, to overcome division and embrace diversity. Conleth is optimistic about the tests that face the world today, and believes that Northern Ireland and Ireland has a responsibility to face the challenges of Brexit head-on, and be an example to the world that we are more united than that which divides us.
University of Oxford
Law Library of Congress
Pat and John Greco
June 9, 2017
My host family (John, Pat, Abigail and Jack) and I, along with Liam (a fellow classmate) visited Gettysburg; the site of one of the defining battles of the American Civil War where the Union Army outflanked the Confederates. On November 19th 1863, four months after the battle, President Lincoln travelled to Gettysburg to dedicate a cemetery to Union soldiers who won the battle of Gettysburg.
It was a speech that underscored a new chapter in American history, affirming that all are created equal. It was the beginning of the end for slavery, where ending slavery now became a clearer aim and mission of the Union Forces. In 272 words (known as the Gettysburg Address), Lincoln captured a longed-for tidal wave of justice. He looked in, looked out and looked forward, the lens through which every member of the WIP class of 2017 are asked to view their DC experience.
Just like the country Lincoln addressed in 1863, this WIP Class of 2017 is defined by its diversity. As we grow together as a class, it has become clearer that our diversity is our biggest strength, it defines not confines us. On Thursday 15th June, we had WIP’s first ever walking debate in the offices of Crowell and Moring. The structure illustrated how we, as a class, deal with our diversity. Questions on tuition fees, a United Ireland, fair wages, the existence of God and the even the merits of the X-factor produced a plurality of opinions. As a class, we walked from point to point in the agree to disagree space, considering our position after every point made. This has filled me with confidence that our class will be able to meaningfully embrace difference, a challenge that a post-Civil war America faced and still faces today.
Our ability to deal with difference will be further put to the test. As a class, we have been set the task to articulate our collective vision for the Island of Ireland by 2040, looking at economics, cultural identity and migration. Over the next 6 weeks, it is our job to come together, to ask questions of each other, to hope, to dream and then commit together to a vision worthy of our class of 30. As Lincoln said in Gettysburg: “It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us.”
Like Lincoln’s speech, our time here in DC is short. But our 272 words can, and will be, impactful. Speaker after speaker, debate after debate, metro stop after metro stop, we are in continual conversations that extend far beyond 272 words, but are aimed at making a difference when we return to the Island of Ireland. As WIP’s 23rd Class of young Irish and Northern Irish leaders, we have embraced the challenge set to us when we applied: “if the future was a book, would you read or write it.” 2 weeks in to my DC experience, my confidence has grown from strength to strength, that with the people around me, Ireland is set for a best-selling future with thirty talented, ambitious and courageous writers who have set pen to paper.