NWU Senior Selected as G8 Summit Junior Delegate; Meets President Obama
Nebraska Wesleyan University senior Lesley Dudden already has an impressive resume.
As a sophomore she won a prestigious Critical Language Scholarship to study Turkish. As a junior she studied abroad in Turkey and interned for the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs-Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. This summer she’s a fellow working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“I was not doing this stuff when I was your age,” President Barack Obama told Dudden on June 27.
On top of her already hefty resume, Dudden can now add junior delegate to the G8 and G20 summits, which were held in Canada June 23-27.
She was one of seven students in the country selected for the delegation. The opportunity led to an unexpected visit with President Obama.
“Even when I was on the plane flying home I kept thinking, did this really happen?” she recalled.
It did, indeed.
Junior delegates from eight countries gathered in Canada to do exactly what world leaders were doing at the G8 and G20 summits: debate and negotiate some of the world’s most challenging issues including nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism, global warming, food security and child and maternal health.
Dudden chose to work on nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism, spending hours debating issues with students from across the world. The debates culminated in a final communiqué that was presented to leaders at the G8 Summit.
“It was very real,” Dudden said of the debate. “You weren’t debating with someone who was pretending the issue affected them. You were debating with people who are directly affected.”
The senior political science and global studies major was grateful to engage in debate, expand her knowledge of world issues, and hear from some of the world’s leading experts on such topics.
But meeting President Obama was definitely the highlight, she said.
On Saturday evening of the summit, the seven U.S. delegates were told two of them would have the opportunity to meet the President. Delegates agreed pulling a name from the hat would be the fairest way to select the lucky students.
“I was elated when my name was pulled,” said Dudden, who hails from Venango, Neb. “But I didn’t know enough about what it meant so I didn’t tell anyone back home. I didn’t know it meant I would actually meet him one on one.”
On Sunday, June 27, Dudden was asked to hold a sign that said “United States.” The sign would point President Obama to the spot he needed to stand for a photo at the G20 Summit. She would then get to escort him back to the negotiation room.
Within minutes, President Obama shook her hand and asked about her education. She mentioned she attends Nebraska Wesleyan University. He responded saying he remembered speaking at a lecture there in the mid-1990s. Dudden then shared that she won a Critical Language Scholarship to study Turkish. The President was so eager to hear her speak the language that he escorted her over to meet the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“I was barely able to speak English with President Obama, let alone speak Turkish with the Turkish prime minister,” she said.
And after 30 minutes, her brush with the presidency was over.
She had the opportunity to meet other officials over the weekend including the mayor of Toronto, the president of TD Bank in Canada, and the American Ambassador to Canada.
Dudden said she learned of the youth summit through an email she received from the U.S. Department of State.
“Those emails are usually about opportunities geared toward graduate students but I read this one and decided to apply,” she said. “I knew I had a strong resume but still thought it was a long shot.”
Dudden will continue building her resume with aspirations to oneday work behind the scenes in politics.
“I have a fascination with people and power, particularly internationally,” she said. “I’m intrigued with the Condoleezza Rice’s and the Rahm Emanuel’s.”
“I’m interested in the diplomats who make the connections,” she continued. “And hopefully my story of meeting President Obama will open a few more doors.”