1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s speech at the Leonard Cheshire Leadership Dinner, held at Goldsmith’s Hall in London on Thursday 3rd November 2005.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
Earlier this evening, Nigel Broomfield -
But as with other charities, they depend upon the leadership of what we now call civil society. At the moment, all developed countries -
Of course, this is anathema to those who believe in the “Fuhrer” principle of political leadership: yet the belief that one Leader can change the world to -
Often, those with such ambitions are monsters: Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, or, in living memory, Hitler, Stalin or Mao.
My own experience has led me to prefer political leaders who don’t believe in their own infallibility. Gorbachev and Yeltsin were heirs to a long line of monsters -
[Indistinct, anecdotes about Gorbachev and Yeltsin].
I think of Jacques Delors too. Delors was not heir to a long line of monsters although I did know some people who -
I sometimes fear we live in a world in which personality and glamour is over-
Let me explain what I mean. In the 19th century, William Gladstone would walk around Soho collecting down-
And yet, underneath this worldly cynicism, something altogether better exists in our society: a willingness to care for others. Diogenes, were he here, would have danced with delight and thrown away his Lantern.
Certainly, Leonard Cheshire would have met his ideals: he is an outstanding example of someone who was honest to himself, to his conscience, and bridged different forms of leadership -
As a young bomber pilot exposed again and again to extreme danger and won a VC for outstanding bravery.
Towards the end of the War, together with Dr William Penney, he was an observer of the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki. They saw at first hand the enormous destruction of life. It was a chilling moment that changed the world -
Perhaps it shaped him as well. Because, after the War, he sought an outlet for his courage and humanity in caring for others.
He started by taking one man, Arthur Dykes, who was suffering from incurable cancer, into his own house at Lee Court in order to care for him.
From that small first step, and through his own example and leadership, has grown the biggest charity in the UK, offering help to disabled people.
All of us can remember the effect on our lives, our outlooks and attitudes made by the influence of unsung people contributing to their communities. Not inspired by personal gain, but by conviction and humanity.
One of the things which makes me most proud of being British is the amazing willingness of people in all walks of life to contribute: sometimes to sudden highly emotive appeals such as the Tsunami or the South Asia earthquake. But more often, people give time and effort to local organisations. Some big -
In charities up and down the land this means people are prepared to take on the duties and obligations of Trustees, to accept responsibility, to offer care, to devote their time and talents -
It means people willing and able to run homes for the disabled, the elderly, young people’s clubs and many other organisations. Leading by example, day by day, year after year, often unrecognised, sometimes with little thanks.
These people are not Saints. They are ordinary people moved by a special compassion or commitment, or, more prosaically, by a simple acceptance of duty, of obligation.
They are motivated by a belief that, in some small way, they are their brother’s keeper and they do have a responsibility beyond their own interest and those of their family. I never cease to be in awe of the contribution made by these remarkable people. They do it because they can and because they believe they should.
In a world that has become globalised and more impersonal, we will need more of that commitment. We live at a time in which countries like India and China are becoming major influences in the “New World Order”. Trans-
If we fail in this endeavour, our countries may become wealthier in aggregate; our GNP may rise and per capita wealth increase; but our society will fracture. “What shall it profit a man if he wins the whole world but loses his soul?” mused Sir Thomas More.
It is not only a good question -
So I hope that charities like Leonard Cheshire and others will continue to attract leaders at all levels; that Leonard Cheshire itself will be a leader in its field and will continue to prove again the old dictum that not everything which is un-
In today’s world -