Pierson students at the C3 Summit in New York City on October 7
By Tessa Raebeck
CEOs, ambassadors and world leaders filled the hall of the Union League Club. The president of the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council was there, as were representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Department of State and the Institute of World Affairs. Most of the 450 distinguished attendees were there for business ideas and networking opportunities, but one group was there on a field trip.
Pierson High School students in Ruth White-Dunne’s International Baccalaureate (IB) History of the Americas class joined experts at the exclusive C3 Summit in New York City October 7. The Sag Harbor seniors, who are in their final year of the two-year class, attended a full day of speaker presentations and panel discussions focused on strengthening relationships—both civil and commercial—between the U.S. and the Arab world.
“It’s a summit dedicated to improving economic and social relations between the United States and the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region,” said Garrett Potter, a senior in the class whose father, Ransel Potter, is the summit’s founder and managing partner.
The C3 Summit assembles business leaders, policy makers, educators, civil society members and other experts who, Potter said, “take emerging markets and try to identify the issues on how they can improve the social and economic relations so there can be a positive commercial feature between the two regions.”
Wael Fakharany, regional director for Google in the Egypt and North Africa region, delivered the keynote speech at the summit.
“He was encouraging businesses to invest in the area because they’re one of the most active regions on the Internet,” said Ian Barrett, a student in the class. “And he was basically encouraging businesses to use social media as a platform to boost their business.”
The Arab world has a population of 400 million people, of which 60 percent are under the age of 25, resulting in over 120 million Internet users in the MENA region, according to the summit’s agenda. Arabic is widely recognized as the fastest growing language on the Internet.
“[Fakharany] was also saying how beneficial the Internet can be for both diplomatic and economic relations between countries and businesses. He thinks the key to peace in the area is maybe not government, but a strong business relationship and an understanding through business,” continued Barrett.
Being the youngest attendees at the summit did not hinder the class’ ability to grasp the content; if anything, they understood Fakharany’s message of the significance of social media better than any of the aged experts.
“All that social media, all that stuff is put into the forefront of the world,” said Pierson senior Bryant Yunker. “Everyone here can relate to what that is and how addictive and how useful Facebook and all that is.”
“If you have a creative spin and know how to use the Internet to your advantage, there’s such a vast amount of opportunity for all of our younger generations,” continued his teacher, White-Dunne. “The opportunities are so vast now as long as you have that kind of passion and creativity to tap into it.”
In addition to the keynote speech, Barrett particularly enjoyed a panel on financial law and how business practices differ in the Middle East.
“It was really interesting because it’s a completely different system,” he said. “It’s not a better or worse system, it’s just different. The key to doing business is first understanding.”
The IB class attended the 2012 C3 summit as juniors last year. Potter said that he preferred his experience at the summit this year because after a year in Mrs. White-Dunne’s class, he was better informed on the topics.
“This class really engaged us in current events and the changing world,” he said. “I felt we were able to better relate to the topics that they were talking about this year than last year because we knew more about what they were talking about.”
“I think with IB it was so critical for these kids to get in there because we’re preparing them for higher level education,” said White-Dunne. “They couldn’t have gotten a better kind of hands-on educational experience. And at the same time, we want them to be participants in this global world and they had it right at their fingertips on Monday,” at the summit.
The IB curriculum is committed to fostering intercultural understanding and respect and encourages students to be active, lifelong learners.
The keynote speaker at last year’s C3 Summit was Bill Clinton, coming right off of his speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The class was in the front row for Clinton’s speech in the midst of studying the presidential election. One student, Kyle Sturmann, was lucky enough to translate that education into an intellectual conversation with the former president.
“I said, ‘You killed it last week, man,’” Sturmann recalled.