Thankyou Gary for your kind introduction and your invitation to speak at Lincoln College’s Higher Education Graduation Ceremony, and of course, to present the certificates to all of these fantastic graduates in the wonderful setting of Lincoln Cathedral.
Congratulations to you all, you are now no longer students...you are all now officially graduates!
All 91 of you...
And can I let you all into a little secret…
As an MP, even just a Backbencher, we receive lots of invitations to various events and “of course” we review each invitation “equally”...but...
- some invites make it to the top
- and some even make it to the very top
- but believe me... this one was placed at the very top of the very top. And for many, many reasons – not least that education and educational attainment is so important to me and I believe for those I seek to represent. I can think of no better way to ensure as a City, County or region, or country that we are ‘leveling up’, or enabling social mobility if you like, than giving everyone the best possible opportunity to get on in life through their education and training possibilities and this can, in fact, take place whatever their age. If I have time I will touch on the importance of lifelong learning – for all of us here this evening, in my view – ‘every day can and is a school day’
So this is why this invitation made the cut, not just because by presenting you with your certificates, I would be following in the footsteps of
- the Bishop of Lincoln
- the Lord Lieutenant for Lincolnshire
- the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire
- Air Vice-Marshal Warren James, and,
- the Leader of Lincolnshire County Council
It was because
- Lincoln College is not just the best College in the County, it is the best college in the Country in my humble opinion – and you might be thinking, yeah he’s just saying that – but no, I mean it;
- it has brilliant leaders like Gary and his management team,
- the best and most dedicated teachers and lecturers you can find anywhere, and yes, I do know some of them, some of them quite well in fact…
- and of course, the college has some of the most talented students and now...the most talented graduates too.
I also know some of you studied in Newark too, so I’m happy to say you are all part of this Lincolnshire and East Midlands family too!
Just like this wonderful location in Lincoln Cathedral, the college and all of you who have graduated today represent the best of our wonderful City, a City that I have always said is the best place in Britain to live, work, visit and study. And it is probably the most loved City in the Midlands too.
This prestigious location matches the success of Lincoln College as it represents the hard work, dedication and talent that go into making anything a success – and all of those traits that you have all needed to show, grasp, and apply to enable you to graduate today.
However, these traits were even more important than ever, given the huge disruption that you have all had due to the pandemic over the last 20 months – and I sincerely hope we are over the worst of the effects and impacts of that on our normal everyday lives.
But because of your strength of character, commitment to learning, and the support from the college, you have made it through. And I obviously hope that none of us ever have to go through the impositions on our freedoms that we have endured during these last 20 months again.
And this evening is just the next part, or step, of your life’s journey - and even perhaps more so, given that your qualifications are all directly linked to careers - which is the real strength of taking studying at the college, which is often very different to studying at a university.
We have graduates here tonight studying on courses ranging from
- Business and Management to Violin Making
- Computer Science to Acupuncture
- Teaching to Sports Therapy
- And many, many more that are all very workplace applicable
All of which offer a clear route into successful careers in those fields.
The qualifications you have proudly attained are of course important from an academic and also a career perspective, but also for me, they open your eyes up to a world of possibilities.
For many of you, you arrive as a teenager fresh out of school, and leave as a fully grown man or woman, not just in a physical sense but also in a mental sense too.
When I started studying after school, far too many moons ago now,
- the pubs were not open all day, and in the part of Wales I was in did not open at all on a Sunday
- we only had four TV channels in total, and,
- the worldwide web had only just been invented
How our lives have changed….
I never thought I would be a Member of Parliament, I thought that was for other people, but when I left with a degree and started my career, suddenly I thought, well, why not me?
And that will now be the same for you, not necessarily being a Member of Parliament...and believe me, with some of the untrue things said about politicians, I do sometimes wonder whether I made the right choice...
But with these qualifications under your arm, and, with the maturity and the wider perspective you have on life, the possibilities are endless.
This is why it is even more apposite for you all graduating at this wonderful cathedral, some of you will know, but others may not, but between 1311, after its completion, and up to 1548, this was the tallest building in the world. For over 200 years – 500 years ago – you are now graduating in the then tallest building in the world. History can be amazing.
Literally, the sky was the limit back then and this is how you should all feel now.
When you all look back on this part of your life’s journey, it is important to remember the people who helped you on your way.
Without the wonderful college, its leadership team and of course the brilliant teaching staff, who do not often the credit they rightly deserve, you would not be here today.
So can I ask you all as graduates to stand up for a bit of audience participation – any of you sleeping during my speech, this should now wake you up - please can we all give them all a hearty round of applause? Stay standing, please.
We also should not forget friends, family and guests either, so if you would like to turn around
They are the people in the background who are always being positive, supportive and provide that crucial shoulder to lean on... even more so when you have only a few hours to finish an essay or complete an assignment you have only just remembered you have to do.
So please can we all give them a round of applause too. If you turn around…
Now as graduates you have thanked all those who have helped, assisted, taught, supported and nurtured you, and now it’s time for you to offer thanks and congratulate all of those immediately around you on your course, your peers – and maybe you can stand up – and as you give each other a round of applause, maybe all the friends family and guests, and the college team of management and teaching staff can join in a joyous and hearty round of applause to say a generous ‘group’ ‘well done indeed’ to all of you…
Lastly, as you settle back in your chairs, should you choose to continue to build your careers in this wonderful city, thankyou. And if you do not, just remember, we will always welcome you back – but enjoy and thrive whatever you do and wherever you chose to be – you have my, and everyone here’s, good wishes
I look forward to seeing you out and about in the city in the future, or when I visit the wonderful employers we have here in the City and County.
For those who do move away, hopefully temporarily, but if you do, you must also tell everyone about how brilliant Lincoln College is and what a wonderful City you studied in, if you wish to, you could also say the Member of Parliament is not a bad bloke either – but that’s all anyone of us in Lincoln can ask.
So congratulations to each and every one of you for graduating tonight, it is very well deserved and all the very best from me as your MP – I am very proud for you all – and as my maternal Grandma always said to me and my younger brothers – usually when we complained about school or homework ‘Just remember… no-one can ever take your education away from you.’
You are all a part of our future! And the future is yours.
Thankyou. And a ‘Good Evening’ to you all.