Just a few weeks ago, Washington DC was host to a huge delegation of top leaders from around the world. No, these were not politicians here to hear President Obama’s State of the Union Address, but 2,000 teens from across 18 countries coming to participate in the largest International convention that BBYO has ever had. Of the teens present, 19 of them were from the Boston Area. These high school students celebrated president’s day weekend by listening to the state of the order from their two international presidents and electing their new international board for the coming year.
Considering the enormous parallels to our American government system, it is no surprise that President Obama sent a video welcome message to the teens that were about to convene in his back yard. The President addressed the audience, “this gathering gives you a chance to affirm your faith and recommit yourselves to the enduring values this organization represents.” He then encouraged the teens to return home, spread their enthusiasm and show the important role that young people play in making a difference in society. Jason Harlam, AZA President for the New England Region felt, “that President Obama’s message was incredible. Seeing Obama take the time to make a video for BBYO showed the power that we all had. It empowered all of us to be leaders and make a difference. I will never forget seeing his face appear at opening ceremonies.”
In addition to the President, the Convention body heard from Michael Froman, Assistant to the President of the United States and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs. Froman, an alumnus of BBYO and former Grand Aleph Godol (International Teen President of AZA), referenced BBYO as having contributed most to who he is today.
Friday morning at the BBYO Stand UP Day of Service and Advocacy plenary, BBYO welcomed alumni engaged in Jewish communal service, educational and entrepreneurial work around the world. The teen leadership body presented the Annual BBYO Stand UP Lifetime Achievement Award to DNC Chairwoman and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who spoke about the importance of standing up for critical causes of the day. The Convention body also heard remarks from Josh Mandel (R-OH), a Marine Corps veteran and State Treasurer of Ohio. Wrapping up the plenary, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice delivered a Call to Action before the delegates went into the DC community for hands on service and advocacy training.
Lindsay Goodman, BBG President of New England Region particularly enjoyed the BBYO Day of Service in DC. “I worked at Kid Power and we played with underprivileged children on the playground,” said Goodman. “It was eye opening to see how the children were so polite and had so much fun when they had so little. I learned that people can be extremely similar and can understand each other’s feelings no matter how far away they live.”
For nearly 90 years, this convention has served to unite the rising leaders of AZA and BBG, to set the course for the coming year, determine strategies for strengthening BBYO as a youth-led movement and connect teens to the worldwide Jewish community.
For more information on BBYO, please visit www.bbyo.org.
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