The following reflection is from Taylor Mangus ‘23 a Pace University undergraduate who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2021. Students were given service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN Students were given service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN and New York City. Taylor’s assignment was with a network of young people who drafted a joint statement on youth and disarmament education, delivered before the UN General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) by fellow Pace student Jeremiah Williams ‘23.
During my Civic Engagement assignment for Dr. Bolton’s disarmament class in Fall 2021, I was able to get involved with disarmament in ways that I never expected. By being able to assist in writing the 2021 Joint Civil Society Statement on Youth Engagement and Peace, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education, I was able to immerse myself in disarmament activism.
As I learned more about how nuclear disarmament affects our lives, I feel as if I have gained new insight into my activism. As I worked on writing the statement, one of the challenges I faced was speaking on behalf of people who I would never understand. As such, the most essential part of any sort of activism is allowing the people who encountered the specific injustice to be heard. When writing the statement, it was difficult for me to put myself in the place of speaking on behalf of others. However, I took this as a moment to reflect on the ways that I have benefitted from systems of white supremacy and look at my place in trying to be a part of the solution.
After Jeremiah delivered the statement to the UN General Assembly First Committee, we were both invited by Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to deliver remarks at NYC’s Yale Club to a gathering of diplomats and civil society advocates working on disarmament. I found this speech much easier for me to write. As I reflected on my experience of lacking education around disarmament issues, I could see how young people are being failed.
It had been quite a while since I was in front of a room speaking due to the pandemic, but, at the same time, it was very exciting. Overall, I learned that disarmament policy making is an incredibly complicated process because of who has control. With states such as the United States, United Kingdom, and France having so much influence over nuclear weapons policy, it can take a lot for things to change. However, persistent and relentless work can make our world far safer. This has inspired me to continue being involved in disarmament issues well after this class is over.
One of the most astounding parts of civic engagement was meeting Ambassador Maritza Chan of Costa Rica’s UN Mission. In the time since my civic engagement assignment, I have had the incredible opportunity to work with her to help prepare for the upcoming Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as well as help with other speeches and professional assignments. By having insight from my work on both the 2021 Joint Civil Society Statement on Youth Engagement and Peace, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education, and the Yale Club Statement, I have more background insight into what Ambassador Chan is looking to say.
Through my work with Ambassador Chan and my civic engagement assignment, I have realized that my words can have an impact. In my five months of working with her, I have transformed my own views of power dynamics in terms of global disarmament. With this transformation, I have been able to amplify voices of the general disarmament movement. Political activism can often feel like screaming into a void where no one is listening. But seeing the fruits of your labor come to fruition is a poignant moment. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can be a part of changing how weapons are viewed and educating people like myself that weapons genuinely are one of the greatest threats facing the world.