Dean Bosworth, Dr Ebadi, Friends New and Old. And some of you are now very old.
I thank you for your warm welcome, and thank you in particular, Dean Bosworth, for that kind introduction. So much more flattering than the one I received recently, when the president said: before I ask Michael Dobbs to speak, I have to point out to you the location of the emergency exits.
But your kind remarks aside, I want to thank you, Dean Bosworth, for your remarkable leadership of this institution. Nothing could be more satisfying for an alumnus than to return and see our beloved school being raised to such spectacular new heights. And the presence here of Dr Ebadi is yet another example of your successes. I am honoured to be asked to help celebrate all you and your colleagues have achieved.
Now it痴 customary on these occasions to offer a few reflections on my time at the Fletcher School, but as I sat down the other night to think about what I should say, I discovered that my task was going to be more difficult than I had anticipated. It wasn稚 so much a matter of what I remember, but whether I remember. Such are the penalties of age. When we were here 35 years ago we were men and women of broad minds and narrow waists, but somewhere along the road they seem to have switched places.
There have been so many changes in the Fletcher School since I first set foot on its doorstep as a shy and uncertain Englishman. In those days, recycling meant seeing if you could get away with using the same term paper in more than one class. And the dining room was not so much a matter of haute cuisine as haute courage.
Yet it was also an intensely serious time. It seemed that the world had come to a point of great crisis. Our world was torn in two, the Middle East was in chaos, terrorism was a word on everyone痴 lips, and we were waging war in a far off, distant country about which we knew too little.
How strange such nonsense seems today. Yet I don稚 despair ・indeed, because of Fletcher I am something of an optimist. The follies of mankind may still leap out from behind every Bush but that doesn稚 mean we have made no progress.
Far from it. That Cold War has gone. The Vietnam War is ended. The terrorism that ripped apart my country in Northern Ireland and in which thousands died, including close friends of mine, cruelly cut down, is now over. Old enemies have put aside their religious hatreds and just last week made their peace, joining together in government. Terrorism can pass.
When I first came to this place I marvelled at it. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. We were from backgrounds that were imperialist and African, European and Oriental, we were Arab and Jew, refugees from Stalinism and those who had fled from Fascism ・oh, and a few Americans, too.
We learned, we laughed. We became brothers, sisters, lovers, even husbands and wives. We found ourselves amongst some of the greatest minds in the country, teachers who could find ways of making even lampposts sit up and think. And we learned so much from each other, from our different creeds and cultures.
There was my dear friend Farrokh, an Indian who asked me to share his apartment with him. I asked why. He said it was about time the Indians got their own back.
A little like Eddson, my classmate, sadly no longer with us, from what was then Rhodesia, who was black and desperately radical and asked me, the Englishman, to baby-sit his children. I asked why. He said it was because his children were unruly, and he had learned over many years of personal experience that the English made excellent jailers.
There were my friends Shokri and David, Arab and Jew, who woke up one morning to discover that their countries were at war.
There was Irshad, whose wedding I tried to attend, not realising that the address on the invitation was not the Mall in London in front of the Palace but the Mall in Peshawar in the North West Frontier province of Pakistan.
There was my dear friend Andrei, who came from a background of extraordinary Stalinist poverty in Romania yet who here at Fletcher shared even his last dollar with me - and today still shares everything he has with me, although I知 delighted to say that his resources have increased substantially.
And there was Ed, an American, who shared what he had with me for no better reason than because that is what Americans do.
Most of them are here today, along with many other dear friends. And all still committed to the principles of service they honed here at this School.
We are the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy; the name implies that there are rules, of sorts, and there is a value in dialogue. Yet today those rules have become grey and there is often little but a dialogue of the deaf. I have been a politician, but I fear that our politicians have not always served us well these last years. How is it that we find it so easy to start wars, yet seem so inept at finishing them?
It makes what we do here all the more important. It needs our continuing support. And to sum up that need I have adapted an old message: For the want of a dollar, the book was lost. And for want of the book, the knowledge was lost. And for want of that knowledge, scholarship and wisdom were lost. And for want of wisdom in a world of chaos and strife, a whole generation was lost.
So to those who are from classes of long ago, I bid you a warm and very welcome return and I urge you to be generous. And to those who leave here as graduates for the first time, look around you. This is the start of the greatest adventure of your lives. You, like generations before you, go out into the world to do what Fletcher graduates have always done: to improve our world, to enhance it, often to dazzle it, and always to serve it. And you will do that in the company of some of the best friends you will ever make.
Yet time marches on. I write books about Winston Churchill, and he always had an appropriate thought for the moment. The moment that comes to mind is when he went into the Guildhall in the City of London with Lady Astor at his side. 銑ook around you, Winston,・she said, 惣ou could fill half of Guildhall with all the brandy you致e drunk in your life.・
The Old Man looked around him. 塑es,・he said, 奏here痴 so much more still to do and so little time to do it.・
Good advice for speakers on such occasions. And if you are ever to graduate then I must sit down. So from where will I find the right words to finish? But ・perhaps ・words are superfluous. It is enough that we are here. In this very special place that is so close to our hearts, and with each other.
Winston Churchill said he required only three things from an audience. That they be well educated, well intentioned, and well oiled.
It痴 a little early in the day for all three conditions to be met, but I feel sure that the great statesman himself would have been extraordinarily proud to be a graduate of the Fletcher School. As, indeed, have I.