Good evening, my name is Tim Jackson and I've the privilege of being the Principal of Andover College. Having been at the inaugural pro-equality Festival last year, I'm delighted to be welcoming you to the second!
Maybe you recognise the following excerpts from a very famous speech:-
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;
Well, yes it's written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 and is the opening of the United States Declaration of Independence and yet Jefferson himself owned slaves!! It would not be for another 87 years until after the Battle of Gettysburg when President Abraham Lincoln uttered the words:-
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal'
The phrase was also quoted by Martin Luther King from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, when he called for an end to racism in the United States
'I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'
Since that time we have, of course gone on to recognise that when we use the word 'man' or 'men', we really should be using the word 'person' ahead of any other observations about any human being -- -- that is to say, whether they are male or female, gay, straight or lesbian, able-bodied or not, religious (irrespective of doctrine), or non-religious, white or black or rich or poor.
I think it's important that we constantly challenge our perceptions of the way we are and in my own case, this summer through avidly watching the para-Olympian athletes, I now refer to "people with disability" rather than "disabled people" which is the term I am now ashamed to say that I used prior to summer 2012.
During this academic year, I'm delighted that the College has launched what is called the "Respect Campaign". I must pay great tribute to two colleagues in particular, one is Lynn Nicholls (Quality and Improvement Manager) and the other is no less than David Watters (Lecturer in Music), both of whom have been instrumental in the campaign and putting so much effort into it. The campaign has been aimed at widening awareness of what are often referred to as the "Protected Characteristics" and to provide materials for Tutorials and ideas for Tutors on how to deliver these materials and encourage discussion in a way that is thought-provoking and transformational rather than being dull and rote. I know that there have been some real changes as a result.
For me the Respect campaign is about human dignity and about respecting people for their humanity and not judging them on any other level. It's a campaign which is designed to open people's eyes and imagination to things which can so easily become unconscious ingrained prejudices and allow them to reflect on these and (I'd suggest in most cases), make changes.
The other consequences of this respect campaign is, I am sure that even more students will complete their courses successfully because every one of them knows that our college community respects them as a person, looking beyond the physical in valuing them equally for their humanity. This is the kind of outcome that we would all want from this kind of initiative, but in addition to that, I very much hope that the Respect campaign, stays with our Students (and Staff of course), for Life -- and impacts on everything they do!
I very much hope that you enjoy this evening and can I ask you to join with me in a round of applause for all the students and staff who have worked to stage this event this evening...
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