Last year, thanks to contributions from a few FODC’s from the Kingwood Area Democrats, as well as State Rep. Armando Walle and State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, we raised funds to help send a University of Houston student to the National Model Arab League in Washington, DC. Krystafer Redden represented UH, Houston, and Texas quite well and provides us this report.
Greetings! My name is Krystafer Redden. I am a second year Terry Foundation Scholar in The Honors College at The University of Houston pursuing a dual degree: a bachelors of arts in political science with an English literature minor, and a bachelors of arts in history with a phronesis minor in politics and ethics.
I was given the distinct opportunity and rare pleasure to travel to Washington DC with my fellow students for a competition called the National Model Arab League in Spring, March of 2009. I was chosen to serve as the Co-Counsel and Associate Justice on the Arab Court of Justice at the National Model at Georgetown University, representing our delegation of Tunisia in a case against Libya regarding environmental law and oil spills.
I would like to take this opportunity, graciously given to me by Stace Medellin and Dos Centavos, to do two things. Primarily, I would like to use this space to thank all the people who assisted me financially in being able to take the trip, attend the model, and seize the opportunity. Finally, I would like to share with all of you my experiences as Counsel and Associate Justice in the National Model Arab League’s Arab Court of Justice.
As I said, I want to sincerely thank everyone who contributed to my ability to be able to fly to and from Washington DC, and attend the model. I will be perpetually thankful for this opportunity; it was highly educational, and helped me to hone my leadership, public speaking, legal logic, and compositional skills. Beyond these academic and professional benefits, it was extremely rewarding on a personal level. In all reality, words are inadequate to articulate my thanks and gratitude. I hope my actions, both now and in the future, can serve as some evidence and assurance of this fact.
Having spent much time preparing our brief with delicate care and legalistic precision my co-counsel and I boarded a plane with the rest of the team to depart from Bush IAH, landing at Reagan National around noontime on Wednesday. After making our way to Dupont Circle via Metro, and boarding the GUTS (Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle) shuttle, we arrived at Georgetown University to settle in to the Conference Center and Hotel. The following day (Thursday) is always reserved for a visit to the embassy of your host country, which we did. The visit was an amazing opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of Embassy Row. The highly political process of embassy placement was slightly peculiar to observe, seeming to mirror a game of political real estate chess. The next day (Friday) our model commenced, and the court began hearing cases immediately. The skills necessary to stay in character, and play the role of Tunisia were difficult at times. We had to resist the temptation to judge our cases based on western standards of jurisprudence, relying instead upon precedent in international and Islamic religious law.
When it came time for our case, it was a particularly contentious and hard fought battle. The issue to be dealt with in our legal proceeding was: “Should Libya be held liable for environmental pollution resulting from offshore oil and gas drilling carried by tidal forces into the Gulf of Gabes Marine and Coastal Resource Protection Project?” Opposing counsel was from Northeastern University in Boston, and had prepared their counter-memorial equally as thoroughly and strategically. Despite this fact however, many holes remained in their case. They had failed to provide visual exhibits or sworn affidavits of expert testimony for the court, instead relying primarily on hearsay and what they considered to be forgone logical conclusions.
Capitalizing upon their weaknesses, we presented a visually, legally, and intellectually compelling case that was characterized by some as “the best we have ever seen” and “prima facie”. We worked together fluidly as a team, simultaneously articulating our arguments while introducing visual exhibits and evidence. Ultimately however, despite distilling complex environmental issues dealing with seasonal marine tidal and air current flow, and conveying the nuances of gas drilling and oil transport ballasting protocol, the court struggled to come to a verdict. Much like modern politics, under the guidance of the Chief Justice, the court “tasked” the Council on Environmental Affairs with investigating the issue and advising the court. Given the nature of the model, this was for all intents and purposes the end of our case, and amounted to a hung jury. The model closed the following day, and our case remained one of the most contentious issues of the whole competition, with judges ardently arguing for both sides.
Aside from the academic activities surrounding the model, I also had the opportunity to explore the city and see some of the sights. Probably my favorite, and arguably the most memorable part for me was the Smithsonian Museum of American History, particularly their Julia Child exhibit. I have been a long time fan of this culinary behemoth, having watched her on Houston PBS early in my childhood. It was also particularly current, since “Being Julia” was being heavily promoted at the time, and I had been a huge fan of the book prior to the movie. Her larger than life persona and disarming charm awakened people across America to “The Art of French Cooking,” which could, on her account, most definitely be ‘mastered.’ My friends and chaperone were particularly amazed by my uncanny impersonation of her, honed over many years of observation and devoted viewing.
In addition to the Smithsonian, we also visited in the International Spy Museum, Chinatown, the Georgetown neighborhood surrounding the university and many other spots of cultural and historical significance. Thanks to the Metro, we could swipe our fare card, get on board, and be in another part of DC in five minutes, which fostered much exploring and strolling about the various neighborhoods and enclaves. We also had dinner with some alums who now work in the area, and enjoyed some Chinese cuisine while in Chinatown. Further still, beyond the extracurricular fun outside the model, I am so thankful I was also given the opportunity to meet and form relationships with so many great students, professors, and administrators from universities across the nation.
In conclusion, I would like to share some equally wonderful, but more recent news. Based on my past performance, I was chosen once again to represent my school, in March, at the National Model at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Our delegation this year will be from Iraq, so this round of competition holds particularly current significance. This year, I have elected to participate as Iraq’s Representative on the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministers. My hope, as before, is that I might be able to depend upon gracious donors and benefactors to help me achieve my fundraising goal in order to attend this year as well.