The Thursday Three

Learn about the growing world of microfinance with these links:

1., the website of the internet-based microlending organization Kiva,

2., the site for MicroPlace, another global group “enabling everyday people to make investments in the world’s working poor,”

3. And, an article from Forbes explaining how to be cautious when participating in microfinancing.

For more information and resources, visit or

Another Reason To Be Optimistic

Dear DECORUM! Readers,

In the theme of one of DECORUM!’s earlier posts, I’d like to share the website of another group harnessing the power of optimism:  Optimist International is an association of  “adult volunteers [who] join Optimist Clubs to conduct positive service projects in their communities aimed at providing a helping hand to youth.”  All right!



Dear DECORUM! Readers,

One of my best friends sent me this e-mail forward a while ago.  It’s a bittersweet story reminding us to help others and make changes for the better.  It doesn’t say squat about international relations (plus it’s kind of manipulative and overly sentimental like most of those circulating messages seem to be), but it does reflect a principle that is key to diplomacy: each interaction is important.  Every word counts, every moment matters.  The next step in your dialogue could make for a new connection or a new discovery.  And these outcomes can be effected by our choices, our decisions on what to do and say.  A director of mine often told our cast to “do it good.”  That’s what we all shoot for in diplomatic action.  Will we make this person feel comfortable,  gain an ally, reach a compromise, achieve a goal?

Jane Goodall once said, “Every individual matters.  Every individual has a role to play.  Every individual makes a difference.  And we have a choice: what sort of difference do we want to make?”




What would you do?….you make the choice. Don’t look for a punch line, there isn’t one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its

dedicated staff, he offered a question:

‘When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.

Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.

Where is the natural order of things in my son?’

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. ‘I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.’

Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’ I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, ‘We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.’

Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.

In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again.

Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the

plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.

The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.

As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over.

The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.

Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, ‘Shay, run to first!

Run to first!’

Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.

He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second, run to second!’

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.

B y the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball . the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.

He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head.

Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, ‘Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay’

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, ‘Run to third!

Shay, run to third!’

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, ‘Shay, run home! Run home!’

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team

‘That day’, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, ‘the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world’.

Shay didn’t make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!


We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate.

The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you’re thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you’re probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren’t the ‘appropriate’ ones to receive this type of message Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference.

We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the ‘natural order of things.’

So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice:

Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it’s least fortunate amongst them.

You now have two choices:

1. Delete

2. Forward

May your day, be a Shay Day.


Dress For Success

Dear DECORUM! Readers,

Imagine you are meeting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon for a casual business lunch.  What do you pull out of your closet to wear?

This may seem like a trivial decision that only people like the fashion-savvy Elle Woods of “Legally Blonde” seriously consider, but such clothing choices are important for anyone, diplomats certainly included.  Dressing with class gives a striking, good first impression to those you’re going to be interacting with.  It will boost your confidence; when you are making a speech, working a room, you will have no reason to be distracted by or nervous regarding any mistakes in or bad comments about your look.  Nice pieces can also make for casual ice breakers such as, “Nice tie!” or “I love your earrings!  Where did you get them?”.  The list of reasons to commit to trying to look your best–and, when working, your most professional–each day  goes on and on.

In our example of meeting the Secretary-General (and for all other business occasions a diplomat would encounter), western business attire is required.  UNA-USA offers a handy reference chart of what falls into this category and what doesn’t:




Suits A suit always looks professional. Be sure to keep suits clean and wrinkle-free. A suit always looks professional. Be sure to keep suits clean and wrinkle-free.
Tops No t-shirts. A blouse, sweater, or button-down shirt of any kind is appropriate. Dresses are also appropriate as long as they are not revealing and adequate in length (follow the rules below for skirt length). No t-shirts. A collared/button-down shirt is appropriate and do not forget a tie!
Bottoms No jeans or shorts. Slacks and suit-pants are acceptable. Skirts must be worn with pantyhose/stockings and should not be more than two inches above the knee. Bottoms should have a subtle pattern; avoid loud designs. No jeans or shorts. Slacks, preferable in dark colors, are appropriate.
Shoes No sneakers or open-toe sandals. Remember: high-heeled shoes may look pretty, but they can also be very uncomfortable, so use your discretion. No sneakers or open-toe sandals. Loafers or other types of dress shoes are preferred.
Hair Keep hair clean and out of your face for a professional look. Keep hair clean and out of your face a professional look

(This information and more can be found at

Note to participants of Model UN: As you probably know, these are the standards followed at MUN conferences, too!  At the last conference I attended, one of my vice chairs frequently complained about how many girls were clad inappropriately in sundresses.  You don’t want to earn that negative attention!  Additionally, if you are on a committee with an after-hours crisis simulation, expect to be changing out of those pajamas!  Business attire is not required for a midnight session at all conferences (another delegate and I were the only 2 out of  about 15 kids that wore formal clothes instead of street clothes at one back in December, and he said, “Well, I guess everyone can tell we’re new to this!”), but it’s safer to change back into your professional apparel anyway (“Hilary Clinton probably sleeps in her suits,” joked one vice chair).

Neutrals like black, white, cream, gray, and brown are good for basic pieces like suits.  Accents of color–maybe on a tie or vest for men and on a shirt, scarf, or hangbag for women–will make you stand out from the crowd and look confident.  Deep teal, classic red, rose, and eggplant are universally flattering colors that look good on all skin types (see and   Color pyschology is also a factor we can throw into the mix.  Check out and for organized and fun facts on the common or universal associations with and impressions given by different hues.  (Blue seems like a good pick for diplomatic relations.)

For more inspiration, check out the TV show What Not To Wear, in which hilarious style experts Stacy and Clinton take on fashion-challenged folks and help them change their look.  Besides offering great advice and lots of laughs, the show demonstrates how much of an effect clothing style can have on your lifestyle in an honest, heartwarming way.

Also, check out these wonderful organizations: Dress For Success and Career Gear.  Both are non-profits that work to improve the economic independence of disadvantaged people (Dress For Success helping women, Career Gear helping men) by supplying business attire along with other support networks and tools.  See how much one suit can do? =)


Civility In Committee

Dear DECORUM! Readers,

Please read this great post from the terrific website about committee etiquette.  Mr. Vlahakis addresses being courteous in the Model UN setting, but I think these principles apply to real-life meetings, too!

You can also read this article on the original blog page:



Sunday, February 10, 2008

Committee Etiquette

I have my next guest post! Meet Aryestis Vlahakis, a junior at Yale who competes with the Model UN Team. He’s originally from Greece, and he also serves on this year’s Secretariat for the Security Council Simulation at Yale (SCSY).

Committee Etiquette
By Aryestis Vlahakis, Yale University, Timothy Dwight College ’09Delegates often overlook the issue of committee etiquette. How should one behave towards fellow delegates? How should one behave towards the chair and the rest of the dais staff? Etiquette means respecting your fellow delegates’ positions and opinions even though you may not agree with them or—be honest here—even if you don’t like some of them. And excellent etiquette can help you win Best Delegate.

In any committee, particularly General Assembly committees, you want to make your presence known to the chair. Although good chairs will familiarize themselves with everyone in committee, you might have bad chairs or a big committee. So, you need to take that extra step to make yourself known.

Before the first session of the conference, walk in a little early and introduce yourself. You don’t have to get into a deep philosophical debate; just offer a couple of words about you, your country, and your school. And speak with confidence.

“Hi, I’m Aryestis and I’m representing Greece. I actually do come from Greece, but right now I’m studying at Yale. I just wanted to introduce myself. It was nice to meet you.”

You are now one step ahead.

If you have a question about the committee or the topic matter, now is an excellent time to ask, but do not make up a meaningless question on the spot. Good chairs see right through this, and then you look like a “suck up.”

Doing this will not guarantee a win, but it certainly grabs the chair’s attention. Impressed chairs will look forward to hearing you speak. They may even offer you an advantage when calling on delegates during moderated caucus and pick you first.

This should be your attitude towards the chair throughout the committee. You should not be afraid to approach him. Chairs are generally very knowledgeable on the subject and offer good advice when you are stuck in committee.

But do not, under any circumstances, suck up to the chair. Although this may sometimes work, the chair will see right through it and you will look like a complete fool.

The whole idea is to present yourself as a team player, not as someone who is trying to leverage an unfair advantage because the chair knows him.

The same goes for interactions with your fellow delegates. You have to present yourself as an easily approachable, easy-going person who is willing to discuss other people’s ideas and compromise on them.

In most cases, the delegate who wins the committee is the one who leads it to a consensus. You cannot be that person if you refuse to work with other delegates, especially the delegates who have all the good ideas. Even if you do not like other delegates, you need to overcome your personal likes and dislikes and be an effective diplomat. Remember that Model UN is not a naturally competitive activity, but one that demands negotiation and consensus.

The best way to present yourself to other delegates is the same way you should present yourself to your chair. Get to your committee room early, reserve yourself a good seat, then walk around the room and introduce yourself to the other delegates. You can ask them what they think about the topics or Britney Spears’ latest nervous breakdown. The point is to get out there and get to know your fellow delegates.

Because all this may be hard to remember when you get into the hustle and bustle of committee, when you are not sure how to act or what to do, just think of these three things:

  1. Don’t be afraid to go up and talk to the chair and fellow delegates;
  2. Be confident and polite;
  3. Be diplomatic and willing to compromise.

Posted by Ryan Villanueva at 3:54 PM


Update, Take Two

Dear DECORUM! Readers,

My apologies again for the serious delay in new entries here!  Some random notes:

  • Please send questions/comments about this blog to our new address,! =)
  • Gals, check out these resources promoting true “girl power”: Global Girl Media, an organization helping “young women around the world to find and share their authentic voice” in journalism and other leadership (; Teen Voices, a magazine that fights for “improving young women’s social and economic status” by challenging, changing,  and contributing to media in a fresh way (; Girls For A Change, a great national group that “empowers thousands of teen girls to create and lead social change” (; and the Seventeen Magazine Project, a blog that documents one girl’s experiment following all the advice of Seventeen to call attention to how media can misrepresent and mislead young women (
  • I picked up the book Quick Spanish for Emergency Responders by David B. Dees at my local library recently.  I’m not planning to be an EMT, but the book seemed like a useful review of important words needed to ask about someone’s condition, explain directions, or alert people of an accident.  And indeed it is!  It also has a handy index of slang words, so you can tell whether you are being flattered, insulted, etc.  I highly recommend that folks learning Spanish pick up a copy if possible!  (Readers learning another foreign language: do you have any recommendations for similar books?  I’ll keep looking, too!)
  • Check back  soon for DECORUM!’s first interview, a post about apparel, and more!


The Thursday Three

Hello!  Because we missed the last Thursday Three, we are including three extra links today.  Also, in honor of the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup yesterday, the sites featured here are all related to both international affairs and the world of sports!

1. The 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament begins tomorrow in South Africa!  For more information, visit  (Also, check out this awe-inspiring ad for the games:

2. Check out JD Walsh Basketball School, which is promoting social change and world peace by spreading basketball through India and other countries:

3.  Learn about the Olympics at

4. Read about Nelson Mandela’s diplomatic achievements in rugby:  (Also, catch the movie based off this incredible story, “Invictus”!  More information can be found here:

5. Cricket has also been used to promote diplomacy, especially in India and Pakistan.  Get an overview here:

6. Additionally, soccer/football has been building friendly international relations for many years.  Learn how and why with this bestseller:

The Thursday Three (one day late!)

1. Get a comprehensive, balanced lowdown on nearly any controversial issue with the nonprofit charity

2. Check out the online, interactive Global Challenge Award, a program which “empowers students to believe that they can make a difference not only on their own lives and national economies but on the planet itself”:

3. Learn about holidays around the world on Earth Calendar:


Dear DECORUM! Readers,

I’m so sorry for the recent lack of posts here!  Life has been really busy lately with end-of-the-school-year exams, projects, and performances.  Look out for new entries later this week.  Thanks, and my apologies again!


P.S. Happy Belated Mother’s Day! <3


Dear DECORUM! Readers,

I’m so sorry for the recent lack of posts here!  Life has been really busy lately with end-of-the-school-year exams, projects, and performances.  Look out for new entries later this week.  Thanks, and my apologies again!


P.S. Happy Belated Mother’s Day! <3