U.S. Senator Angus King concluded the 2017 Maine Model U.N. Conference — a three-day gathering of 550 high schoolers at USM's Gorham Campus — with a plea for both risks and compromise.
"Learn to make a difference," King told Model U.N. delegates gathered in Gorham's Costello Sports Complex. "Do new things. Err on the side of action."
But when something must be accomplished with others, be willing to compromise, said King, a former Maine governor and first-term senator.
"Compromise is not a dirty word," he said. "Human beings have different values and interests, and you have to make them work together."
Compromise and cooperation are key pieces to the annual event.
Over three days ending on May 19, the students took on the roles of United Nations delegates and were divided into 10 committees, each led by a pair of USM students. They wore dresses or jackets and ties. They tried to speak in the policy-heavy-but-gracious manner of diplomats, worked on resolutions and even faced middle-of-the-night crises.
USM student Lee Parsons served as secretary general.
"We woke them at 3 a.m. with a blockade in the South China Sea," Parsons said. "The young people solved the crisis even as they fought sleep."
The USM effort was led by political science lecturer Timothy Ruback, who also serves as the conference's director.
He welcomed the Independent senator, who hinted at his frustration with Congress's strict partisanship.
"Our government is the result of compromise," he said, describing the creation of the House of Representatives and the Senate to please both rural states and those with large populations.
"Nobody in Congress should ever say they're not going to compromise because they wouldn't be there if it wasn't for a compromise," King said.