Opening Ceremonies

By Ryan Balu & Paine Gronemeyer

The 2020 YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs (CONA) is taking place in an unprecedented time in modern history: a time defined by not only riots, protests, and growing social movements but also a global pandemic that continues to isolate and separate millions of Americans. The Youth Conference on National Affairs usually takes place at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, North Carolina, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the conference is taking place virtually. Earlier today, six hundred delegates eagerly listened as the 2020 CONA conference started off with its opening ceremonies. After joining the Zoom webinar, delegates were met with a video of fellow CONA delegates reciting both fun and historical facts about their states, and soon afterward, the faces of the six presiding officers popped up on the screen, indicating that the opening ceremonies had truly begun. 

This year’s Presiding Officers (POs), Sam Lowry, John Bailey, Rishin Sharma, Auyush Dave, Kate Carpenter, and Candice Mulinda, had much to say about the significance of being a CONA delegate and reassured everyone that despite that fact that this is a virtual conference, the Conference on National Affairs is just as impactful and fun as ever. PO John Bailey summarized this perfectly: “Assembly is a place. CONA is an experience.” The Blue Ridge Spirit comes from who we are and not where we are. Concluding the 2020 CONA opening ceremonies, our Presiding Officers each left us with a strong message:

“CONA is not the mountain, CONA is not the proposals, CONA is the people.”
Sam Lowry

“We must act now, because ladies and gentlemen, we need it.”
-Candice Mulinda

“CONA has been waiting for you here, as your platform. This is your platform.”
-Kate Carpenter

“The funny truth is that I will likely never have any idea how to do this job and many of you might have had similar thoughts, yet here you are”
-Auyush Dave

“You are now members of a family that fundamentally represent the cream of the crop in America’s youth.”
John Bailey

“Now more than ever, the issues we are debating today are woven into the fabric of our society, and it is the solutions that we innovate that will lead American progress in the next generation.”
Rishin Sharma