On June 27, 2009, I piled into a bus with 6 acquaintances from the State YMCA of Georgia, and 27 strangers from the State YMCA of Florida, to embark on a 7 day journey to the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly held on Black Mountain, North Carolina, and take part in the 65th annual YMCA Conference on National Affairs, CONA. As the Youth Governor of Georgia, it was my job to lead my delegation through the conference, the 7 levels of committee meetings, and a week of which I knew nothing about. The Florida delegation was definitely of a different breed, and was so enthusiastic that those of us from the Georgia delegation were already dreading the week before the bus ever pulled out of the parking lot of the State Y headquarters in Chamblee. However, my preconceived notions of how much I would enjoy myself in the following week were quickly and happily eradicated as I took part in the most enriching experience I have ever had in my life.
CONA was born in the rocky cradle of Stone Mountain, Georgia, sixty-five long years ago. It was an invitation to all other Y’s from the State YMCA of Georgia to bring their best and have a legislative conference discussing national affairs, and pools some conclusions from the cream-of-the crop of students across the country. Georgia no longer sponsors the conference, and its attendance has grown so numerous that a change of venue occurred. The premise of the conference is simple: take concerned students let them write proposals dealing with national policy. Then, throw them into 7 layers of legislative sessions to determine what is most important to the students. If a proposal makes it from the first night, First Committee, to the end of the week, the grueling Plenary Session, and is passed by a majority of the delegates present, an author has accomplished the near impossible, and is immortalized in the annals of CONA history. Out of 556 proposals, 18 passed Plenary Session this year. I carried a simple proposal; grant a swift and comprehensive tax break to all Americans by abolishing the sliding-scale national income tax system, repealing of the 16th amendment, and embedding a national sales tax on all consumer goods. Unfortunately, my proposal did not get out of First Committee. Lacking an agenda of my own, I set all my efforts into helping others pass good pieces of conservative legislation.
It’s easy to get caught up in the middle of all the politicking and debating, and forget to take in the view of the Mountain. The crisp, cool breeze in the morning air is what gave us the energy to be in meetings at 7A.M. The shade of the giant pine trees was a refreshing oasis from the convection oven that is the gentleman’s suit. I spent many an afternoon in the soft grass discussing with my fellow delegates the prospects of their proposals, and whether or not I would be willing to speak on their behalf. The view from the mountain was incredible. The Georgia delegation stayed up to watch the sunrise illuminate the skyline of the Blue Ridge Mountains in picturesque blues, oranges, and purples, which was probably the best part of the entire experience.
Even as this essay is not about politics, my travel to CONA granted me a vast array of new friends from all parties, and states, and forced me to appreciate the diversity offered from other travelers from across this great nation, as well as enjoy the beautiful, tranquil atmosphere of the majestic Black Mountain, North Carolina.
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