Churchill, Thatcher, The Dalai Lama, Col Gadaffi, Archbishop Tutu, Dame Edna … & John Simonett!
24 February, 2015
Being asked to speak to an audience who have previously seen and heard “celebrity” speakers (or just very good ones!) can be daunting. In the trade it is called “following” another speaker. The list of names in the title of this post are not often seen together! So what have they got in common?
A: They’ve all spoken in a debate at the Cambridge University Students Union!
I must admit I had mixed feelings when I got the call from the President of the Cambridge Union asking if I would be prepared to take part in a debate. Who me? It was of course a great honour to be asked … especially as it was a “fun” end of term debate – right up my street! He had chosen me from my internet profile to join his team in proposing the motion “This House would rather have a Blue than a First”! (Just to explain – to my American readers – a “Blue” means being selected to represent the University in a “Varsity match” against rivals Oxford in one of several major sports – and is considered a great honour. A First is obviously a First Class degree on graduation!).
It was of course a no-brainer that I should accept the invitation – and join the pantheon of politicians, comedians, actors and world leaders who have graced the debating floor before me! Few speakers are given the chance to add the Cambridge Union to their CVs!
The topic was essentially a “Brawn vs. Brain” debate – chosen by the President as he was a Hockey “Blue” – and wore his Cambridge Blue blazer in the debate! He had selected me at random – as a sportsman (and humorist!) to join his team to propose the motion! Let’s be honest – we were up against it – as very few people go to a University specifically to emerge with a sporting honour!
The whole experience was a wonderful glimpse into one of the extra-curricular activities which go into moulding a Cambridge graduate’s persona – and are as much a part of the reason for attending such an institution as obtaining a degree. I’m glad I accepted the challenge!