You too can live your dream

Yesterday at a Prize Giving at a local Comprehensive School I asked the children, students and parents if they thought the prize winners had mainly won prizes because of their genes, and who their parents were, or because of the effort and the enthusiasm they had put into their studies. By a wide margin the audience told me the prize winners had done so through their own hard work. It had been a long hot evening of speeches, with many prizes. I kept my remarks short, conscious that people had homes they wanted to return to, seeing the audience had reached the point where the chairs seemed hard and the air too warm.

I said something along the following lines:

“You too can live your dreams. In this age of watching celebrity on TV, when the best performers in the world of sport, drama and song can be in our living rooms and bedrooms at the touch of a button, it is all too easy to think the successful are born with different genes. People think Johnny Wilkinson was such a good kicker of the rugby ball because he was born with that skill, or they believe Ronaldo can show poetry with a soccer ball because his parents so endowed him. They ignore the hours of practise both put in as youngsters before fame beckoned, when their friends were spending more time watching TV or engaging in a more active social life.

Somewhere in a hall like this is sitting a 15 or 16 year old who will lift a gold medal at the London Olympics. It is unlikely to be someone here tonight, because the best in the world today are so good, and make such a sacrifice. But it could be someone here tonight, if one of you really really wanted to be the best in the world at something which requires youthful muscles and hunger to be the fastest.

There may be many parents here tonight who have long given up on their dream. They may not be able to see their way past the mortgage payments and the school run. My message to you is the same. In a few years you will have no more school run. Eventually the mortgage will be repaid. Sometimes it pays to be brave, to say I am not going to just dream my dream, or let my dream fade into the cynicism of middle age – I am going to seize the moment and advance my dream. You might surprise yourself at what you can do, if you really really want to . Tomorrow you could make that first step to what you have always wanted to do – so why delay, why not start today?

If you do start to live your dream you will find in some ways it is so much better than the dream itself. Yes, there will be the rebuffs and the rejections, the days, weeks or months when it does not work. There will be times when you are not good enough, and other times when you may be good enough but others do not recognise it. There will be times when you are living your dream when it becomes a nightmare and you will wonder why you ever dreamt it. You will need to be your own best critic, constantly striving to do better and to learn more each day. If you want to be good, strive to be the best.

I always dreamt of one day representing people in Parliament. It took me 14 years to get there from the time I first became a Councillor, with many rebuffs on the way. Each time I wondered if it would be worth it. It was. Every day I walk into the magnificent Victorian building at Westminster and see our history in the murals, paintings and statues, I know it was worth it. Every time I make a speech, I am humbled by the thought of some of the great speeches that changed the nation, and inspired by the thought I too can make my contribution to our democratic traditions. Even though I am a well known critic of how Parliament is run and handled by the present government, I never doubt its importance to our liberties, and the need for those who believe to make it better. In a way the defects of the present mount a greater challenge to my generation to do something to sort it, so we can pass it on with greater lustre.

And when I manage to fit in a game of cricket and play well below the standard I would like to, I remember the great saying – my luck at sport always improves, the more I practise. You will find it difficult to live more than one dream!”

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14 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    JR, great speech and a great ethic

  2. Cliff
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    John:

    It sounds like a good motivational speech to me.

    I actually feel that some amount of natural talent is required as well as the determination to succeed.

    We are all different and have different abilities, have you obtained your high elevated academic status purely as a result of the work and study you put in?…….Could someone with the IQ of a sugar puff achieve the same standard as long as they worked hard?

    My natural gift was in mathematics; I could count up to one hundred and tell the time by the age of three. I needed to put in very little effort to achieve my grade A GCE O Level in mathematics and very little effort for my A Levels in both pure and applied maths. However, English was real hard work and it was not until the sixth form I achieved a C grade at O level.

    I think it is right to inspire kids to achieve the best they can but, it is wrong to give some unrealistic expectations…..Some will never be professional footballers or captains of industry, some will only ever be capable of menial tasks.
    I think this is one of the failings of modern education; people seldom are given a reality check or a no.
    If you lead a child to believe they can be a professional footballer or a top manager and later in life it becomes clear they are not up to the standard required, they become very disillusioned with life and almost cut themselves off from society, when you ask kids these days what they want to be, they no longer want to be train drivers or nurses, they want to be celebrities, pop stars or professional footballers well, they can't all be…. That is a fact of life, some will be cleaners, some will be bus drivers, one or two may be doctors or managers but most will not achieve their real dream……..That is the reality of life and it is cruel to tell the kids otherwise.

    Still a great speech John!! :-))

    Reply:
    Yes, up to a point. If you are 12 stone plus with a big frame becomign a greta jockey or cox is not a good choice! But do not underestimate what you can achieve to alter your physical strength or your mental aptitude either. Within reason you can achieve a lot through application.

  3. Derek W. Buxton
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    A good speech indeed. Just one minor? complaint, I have not noticed Parliament doing much for our liberty over the last eleven years and am not holding my breath for the rest of the time I have left. That liberty was dearly bought partly during my lifetime and I feel for those who lost their lives in pursuit of it to be so betrayed.

    Reply: Yes, I agree – it is something some of us battle for within our Parliament.

  4. Tim Jinkerson
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Last night was the first time I have heard Mr Redwood speak 'in the flesh'. I have to say that the message delivered was perfect. The content, that it can be possible to achieve your dreams, but only through hard work and application, was just right for an evening where we celebrated the achievements of our children. The speech also addressed failure and rejection, something that we can be afraid to face up to with our children in these days of "non-competitive sports days"! The delivery style was heartfelt but up-beat, you were left in no doubt that Mr Redwood believed his own message. It was brief, showing more understanding of how to communicate to 11 years olds than many in the room, and above all, it was audible – not a feat that everyone managed to pull off!

    I really want to thank Mr Redwood for taking time out of his schedule to address the school. I had two children in the hall last night, and was so pleased that somebody addressed them in a way that they could benefit from.

    Thank You.

  5. Cliff
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    John:

    I am not disagreeing with your general message, I accept, with a little effort people can increase their physical strength, or improve their maths skills or almost anything else. We can improve ourselves up to our limits, be that physical or mental limits………You cannot for example, make a solid gold statue out of a piece of steel, just as you can't make a heavy weight boxer out of a man that is five feet tall with a major heart defect.

    A school friend of mine was deemed to be educationally sub normal, I believe the modern PC term is academically challenged, he hated school and no matter how much extra teaching and help he was given, he just could not achieve what his highly academic parents wanted him to. He was not cut out to be an academic. However, he is now retired and a multi millionaire because he had a natural talent for a particular sport, I will not say which one as it would be obvious who he is and he still lives locally.
    This story illustrates the point I was making; The one size fits all does not work, we are all different and that difference is what we should celebrate.

    Let's face it, if were all cut out to be professional footballers, who would serve us at our local restaurant?:-))

  6. William B.
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Our friends across the pond have your point ingrained into their national psyche. They call it the American Dream and it leads to a real "can do" culture across the country. They also recognise that "can do" does not necessarily mean "will achieve" it does, however, help them avoid the worst excesses of welfare stagnation that blights so many lives here.

  7. Freeborn John
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    That was a very nice piece Mr. Redwood, worded with your usual succinct clarity. I am sure that any child or parent, who heard it, or anyone reading it here, would have been inspired to chase their dream, or at least question what became of it.

    I wanted to be an engineer from an early age; to design elegant things that solve real-world problems. I’ve been lucky enough to work in a small way on some things that have made a big impact, as well as on quite a few seemingly promising ideas that went nowhere. I would not say that luck rules the world, but the best we can do is chose our dream, select projects carefully with one eye on the probability of success, work hard, and then hope that the fruits of providence are not stacked against us. The pursuit of a dream may be under our control, but the attainment of it typically depends in part on others who are not.

    Sometimes I imagine Parliament through the prism of my engineering background, as designing the optimum rules for different elements of society to function harmoniously together while satisfying as many mutually incompatible design constraints as possible, such as a maximum of individual liberty, not too much inequality, security from external threat, etc, etc. I wonder though if any parliamentarians see their institution this way. I recall that Margaret Thatcher once said that Keith Joseph was unique in that his engineering background meant he brought her solutions rather than problems.

  8. Derek
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    I would disagree with a previous contributor. Almost anything is possible with sufficient hard work and dedication. The truth, in this life, is the playing field are far more level than anyone dares admit. I built up a large business from scratch and most people seem happiest to assume it was done with wealth inherited from my father. I stopped telling them a long time ago that it was started with money saved, from what at the time, would have been a minimum wage job. It now seems easier than forcing people to confront the fact that they just never dared make the leap.

    Two other things I think are important. I attended a dire comprehensive and have done my best to rectify the gaping holes in my education. Children, who do have ambition to do big things, would be even closer to the privileged Eton playing field, if they had the opportunity to attend a grammar school. The other point would be that it's much easier to get on with things if you know both your parents are together going to be supportive.

  9. mikestallard
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Oddly enough, while you were delivering this speech aytyour school, I was, in someone's house, delivering the same speech to a little girl of 12.
    The Headmaster at her (Freshstart) school has just resigned, in the middle of a week, with "stress" and a "nervous breakdown." The school is largely taught by Supply teachers who "can't keep order and you don't learn anything."
    She is in set 2 for English and Maths when sets 2,3, and 4 stand, no chance, statistically, of passing 5 academic GCSEs.
    But, I explained, positively, that the GCSEs were now so dumbed down that more or less anyone could pass them and, once passed, they were the ticket to University – or wherever she wanted to go. I also explained that electricians and plumbers were good people who made a LOT of money nowadays, if she decided to go to College.
    I pointed out, further, that she still had a very loving Mum and Dad and even a baby sister.
    Do you know, when I left, they were all quite happy!

  10. adam
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Your message is correct in my view.
    The opposite message would create a negative philosophy, even
    if its true in part.

    we shouldnt focus on the things we cant
    change in the world but the things we can.

  11. londonerr
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the inspirational message. We need more high achievers like you to inspire our youth to dream and to lift their sights. In our world sometimes it appears your message gets drowned out by the power of cynicism, fatalism, and lowest common denominator-thinking. You are to be applauded for being an example of aspirational thinking and action, and for sharing that message with our youth.

  12. Bazman
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Great words John. Write a blog on how you stood on MP's expenses please.

  13. Donitz
    Posted July 5, 2008 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    JR,

    Outstanding!!!

    I have always had the dream of building a business since I was thirteen. Lured away from my dream into "well paid" corporate life, it was not until my mid thirties I began to realise the dream.

    There's been ups and downs but by god it's fun.

    Reply: I am glad it is working for you. Some who do succeed at school and university never then screw up the courage to start up somehting for themselves – often the best entreprenuers are the ones who had nothing and had nothing to lose so they risked more.

  14. simon k
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Inspiring stuff! I've decided to live my dream and leave the UK. I will miss the neo-gothic though.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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