2010 Beacon Awards Ceremony, Goldsmith’s Hall, London
Speech at the 2010 Beacon Awards Ceremony at the Goldsmiths' Hall.
Dame Stephanie Shirley
The British Government's Founding Ambassador for Philanthropy
As one of the first Beacon Fellows, I'd like to honour the founders of this unique Award, some of whom are with us here in Goldsmiths' Hall. How appropriate a setting this is. Gold with its hallmarks; Beacon with its Awards.
So let us salute all the Beacons of Today...
And all those Beacons of Yesterday... where would we be without them?
That we have these ancient models of deliberate vision and generosity
are vital reflections of our giving past that we can't ignore.
Our ancestors who like Dick Whittington in London City, Dr Barnardo, Cadbury and Fry
broke new ground and sometimes 'laws' of the time
to found movements, build dreams, right wrongs, conquer disease...
People like Octavia Hill, Gilbert Sheldon, Andrew Carnegie, Haig
All Beacons, every one of them.
I ask, where would we be today?
as a country, without them, a Big Society banded together by those driven souls
who would not be stopped, could not be stopped...
to change and challenge our ideas, our ways of being, fixing our sights
on beauty, on bravery, and creativity
that would not, could not be stopped,
regardless of the punishments
or payments of their blood, sweat and tears?
Beacons let us see. Do they not? Without pointing.
All of a sudden that which was not there. Is there.
A school. A hospital. A garden that wasn't, somehow is.
And in that dazzling light, we, simply see.
And such impressions go deep into our core, our national psyche.
As though it had been there forever,
beaming there to show us the way.
Beacons. Have great capacity to reorder anything, everything
without asking Should I? Could I? But yes, I can.
It only takes one Beacon to make a light that we can follow to
I honour those great Beacons, more names than I can call out,
Who long ago have settled into the earth
with their passions duly exerted with a mark...
"I was here. I was here."
They are Beacon forerunners. Our brothers and sisters of Britain
who made life better for their citizen friends of the time,
and all of us for all time.
Philanthropy and Giving didn't start today, last week or even last century.
People have been solving problems
and raising the bar on our capacity to be generous
since we walked upright
making a world for us to dream of, build on.
And what of tomorrow? The perfect vision of 2020?
Who will say to us all
what we can not ignore.
Who will be those Beacons
to light the way?
Copyright November 2010
Dame Stephanie Shirley
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