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Autumnal weather did not dampen spirits as the Roedean family came together for its sold-out, much-anticipated 2010 Speech Day. The guest speaker was Lord Patten, described by Mrs King as, ‘a global statesman of the highest integrity’.
Arriving to a stunning rendition of The Queen of Sheba, Chair of Council Christopher Jonas launched proceedings by thanking two retiring members of staff for their dedicated years of service to Roedean: Penny Sinclair (Vice-Chair, Council) and Stephen Launchbury (Bursar).
Headmistress Mrs King then took the floor to discuss her key themes: preparing girls to be leaders through community life; focusing on university entry to showcase innovative teaching and looking beyond our shores through collaboration in Europe and Asia.
Head of School Sharon Jacobs and her Deputies Julia Kisray and Sheena Cheung, then gave a brief overview of the highlights of the last school year. The orchestra and singers performed three beautiful pieces, including one composed by GCSE student Natalie Hak. The room fell silent; it was time for the keynote speech.
Lord Patten took as his theme, ‘The world you will shape’. He had grown up in a nuclear world, one of mutually assured destruction. The Cuban Missile Crisis had occurred during his first term at university. By contrast, he felt the challenge of the twenty first century would be to manage the consequences of the last century’s successes, for example a 13-fold increase in the urban population.
He noted that technology has created a genuine global marketplace where competition is no longer between nation states, but between multinational companies. In 2010 he visited Bangalore, Shanghai and Hong Kong. In each, he met young professionals starting their careers and hungry for responsibility. ‘These people are the competition for ambitious British students’, he pointed out.
So in a week of student demonstrations, Lord Patten advised the girls, ‘Work hard, do well, and go to university to do the course you want to do. Don’t settle for second best.’
Finally, turning to the sixth form leavers directly, Lord Patten reminded them to make the most of their abilities and potential. ‘You have had the opportunity for a terrific education at Roedean. It is a wonderful start to your lives. Your responsibility now is to put back some of what you have been given’.
He was an engaging and memorable speaker and very warmly applauded by the audience.