October 23, 2020
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Education For All

'I want us to build together a world where instead of developing only some of the potential of some of our people, we can together develop all of the potential of all of the people.'

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Education For All
Education For All

The British PM who was conferred an honorary degree by the Delhi University, interspersed his following written acceptance speech with off-the-cuff asides and anecdotes. Noting that he was a lecturer at Glasgow University before he "descended into politics", Brown said the varsity stood for qualities like objectivity, rationality, impartiality and honest pursuit of truth. These were all qualities, he said, "that you have to leave behind when you go into politics", causing the large convention hall at the Old Vice Regal Lodge at the University to burst into laughter. 

He also narrated an incident involving former US President Ronald Reagan and the then Swedish Premier Olaf Palme. "President Reagan did not know what to make of the Social Democratic Prime Minister of Sweden," he said. Reagan, according to Brown, asked his officials whether Palme was a communist, getting the reply that he was actually "anti-communist". "And to this Mr Reagan said, I don't care what kind of communist he is," Brown said.

The British Prime Minister narrated this story as he wanted to stress on what Palme told Reagan in their meeting in reply to a question from the US President on what he believed in. Palme told Reagan he believed every person should get a chance to realise his or her potential.


We speak today, rightly so, of a partnership of equals, India and Great Britain, two great 21st century modern economies, one of the oldest democracies in the world and the biggest democracy in the world working together for common aims. And our understanding, now many decades old, is that our two nations are not only intertwined but we are also interdependent.

And we now know that in this great world of ours that what happens to the poorest citizens in the poorest countries can directly affect the richest citizens in the richest countries. There is a saying that sums up the dependence as a community that we have upon each other for our food, for our clothing and for livelihoods. The poem says it is the hands of others that grow the food we eat, sew the clothes we wear, build the houses we inhabit, it is the hands of others that tend us when we are sick and lift us up when we fall, it is the hands of others that bring us into this world and lower us into the grave.

And starting from this great interdependence and the need to build now a world order that is grounded in our shared needs and our shared interest in destiny and responsibility, I believe it is time to summon our generation, this generation, to a new sense of possibility about what we can achieve if we match the technology we have invented, the medicine we now have, the knowledge now in our possession with a far reaching and humane vision for our future of a shared global prosperity, not as an end in itself but as an instrument of our common humanity.

The great poet William Wordsworth said at the time of another age of great change two centuries and more ago, he said then: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive and to be young was heaven. And I believe that that is the sentiment that we can express about this age. And my hope is that as the dialogue between our nations, the search for a consensus about the future, and then a partnership between nations across the world, that this fractured world can forge a new economic and social covenant, a global new deal between developed and developing countries that not only strives to turn swords into ploughshares but to envisage a day when there will be no need for swords again.

And from a university like the University of Delhi, it is possible to see all past history, of the flowering of some great creative geniuses, the triumph of the human spirit, but also the tragic waste of so much human potential, talent that never had the chance to be realised, but now in this age we have the chance to allow them to fulfil their potential. And I want us to build together a world where instead of developing only some of the potential of some of our people, we can together develop all of the potential of all of the people.

And the University of Delhi sits precisely for that purpose, to bridge the gap between what people are and what they have it in themselves to become. And I want us in Britain to work with you in India to offer to every single individual in the world one of the greatest and most achievable gifts, universal free education for all children which would be our declaration of our faith in the future. And we will work by providing international aid to every continent of the world to make sure that by the year 2015, instead of 70 million children of the world being denied the chance of the basic right to education, every child, in every country, in every continent has that basic and fundamental right.

In the dark days of war in Europe in the 1930 and '40s, Winston Churchill, who was the leader of our country, complained that when the challenges were great we had, he said, leadership that was resolved, he said, only to be irresolute, that was adamant only for drift, that was solid only for fluidity and was all powerful but impotent. And that is a warning to us all. When faced with these huge possibilities and the urgent challenges ahead of us we must be resolute, adamant, solid and powerful for change. So let the message of resolution bring us from here in Delhi today, let it be our generation that holds aloft a candle of hope that cuts through the darkness of injustice, that alights even the bleakest places of the world, that illuminates a path to progress and embraces for all human kind what this university stands for - a message of hope, of faith in people and of faith and confidence in the future.

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