With the full United Nations assembled on a rainy February day, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stepped to the lectern and spoke.
This wasn’t at the U.N. Secretariat Building in New York, but rather in the Woodruff Lecture Hall on the Woodward Academy campus. And the assembled delegates? They were students from the Model United Nations organizations at Woodward and the Paideia School.
The students had come together, each representing a different country, to hold committee meetings and simulate the U.N.’s real work.
Bottoms said she was glad to speak to the groups, and not just because her four children are Woodward students. She noted that Atlanta is a truly international city with an airport that serves 75 destinations in 50 countries, receives 1.5 million annual foreign visitors, and hosts some 2,600 foreign-owned businesses.
“We have a legacy ingrained as the capital of civil and human rights,” she said. “And where we are with national politics, there’s a need for us to lead even more on the local level.”
Bottoms both encouraged and challenged the students to make a difference and to let their voices be heard amid a tumultuous political environment.
“All bets are off. There’s no traditional way of thinking or doing things,” she said. “Your opinions on how to approach challenges and opportunities are as good as anyone’s.”
During a question-and-answer session, students asked about Bottoms’ path into politics, her priorities for the city, and the challenges of running a city while being a mother.
Bottoms related that an important city meeting had been scheduled for a Friday morning, and she had let everyone know that she wouldn’t be able to attend. Why? Because it conflicted with the weekly Community Meeting at the Primary School, where two of her children attend.
While some people were frustrated, eventually the city meeting was rescheduled. Later, Bottoms said other parents came and thanked her for prioritizing her children.
As Bottoms wrapped up her comments and began to leave, the bell rang to signal the end of the period. Woodruff Hall flooded with Upper School students; among them was her oldest son, Lance, in 12th grade. They shared a quick hug, and then the mayor went back out into the rain—civic duties beckoned.