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International Azalea Festival's Model NATO Conference Comes to ODU

Student "diplomats" from area high schools and universities were at Old Dominion University today serving as delegates to the Model NATO Conference, part of Norfolk's 56th International Azalea Festival.

The Model NATO Conference, now in its third year, was held off base for the first time this year. Twenty-eight student diplomats were selected through an essay application process, demonstrating their knowledge about NATO, its member nations, its purpose and current issues being addressed by the organization.

Lt. Gen. Jan Arp, chief of staff for the Supreme Allied Command Transformation, delivered opening remarks to the students, each of whom represented a different member nation at the conference. Members of ODU's Model UN Society assisted with the event and served as alternate student diplomats.

The purpose of the student diplomat program is to provide a forum for Norfolk students to learn about NATO and its contributions to peace and security in the global arena. The program pairs each diplomat with a mentor from the nation he or she will represent, offering them the opportunity to learn more about the various cultures and customs of NATO member nations. Also, the student diplomats practice the art of negotiation and compromise during the Model NATO Conference, where they tackle the same issues faced by NATO's political and military leaders.

The International NATO/Azalea Festival is a nonprofit organization founded in 1953, just one year after the establishment of NATO's Allied Command Atlantic in Norfolk. In that year, the citizens of Norfolk organized a salute to these allied forces in order to create new friendships, provide a basis for cultural exchange, pursue new lines of trade between Norfolk and the world, and recognize NATO's role in maintaining peace in the world.

This article was posted on: April 6, 2009

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