Remarks to: Goodenough College on Founders’ Day, by Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, 4 October 2018.
“Road To Everywhere”
President, Chairman, Governors, Trustees, Fellow Fellows, Students, Ladies, and Gentlemen. Wilkommen, Benvenuti, Bienvenue,欢迎光临 (huānyíng guānglín), Welcome.
It is a genuine honour to have been asked to deliver this year’s Founders’ Day address. Founders’ Day is an opportunity to cultivate our legacies and sow our futures. We do so in challenging times.
There is an old joke about a lost boy who walks into a sweet shop. He asks the owner if he can stand by the door. The owner is puzzled. She asks him why he just wants to stand. “I’m lost Miss, but if I stand by a sweet shop door my mother will pop out of nowhere”.
The author of The Road To Somewhere is David Goodhart, a former editor of Prospect magazine. Goodheart identifies two tribes – ‘Somewheres’, who feel strong local and national attachments, and ‘Anywheres’, global villagers who value autonomy and mobility.
Exactly two years ago tomorrow, at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, the Prime Minister, Teresa May created a third tribe, ‘nowheres’, but it wasn’t a joke. She stated, “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere”. Like all quotes from long speeches, it is slightly out of context. But her underlying bias, that we have to choose between the world and ‘nowhere’ is troubling. On the contrary, unless you’re an active citizen of the world, then you are a citizen of nowhere.
In wry humour, the comedian Steve Wright didn’t find ‘nowhere’ so bad. “Drugs may lead to nowhere, but at least it’s the scenic route.” Nowhere are the bits not connected to the rest of us. Nowheres are full of pollution, epidemics, terrorism, war, and poverty. We need to belong somewhere. We need to belong to communities that prevent nowhere. Mrs May is right to encourage us to prevent nowheres.
Communities have characteristics worth discussing on Founders’ Days. In this address I want to touch on three aspects we still share with our founder – Quakerism, quality, and community.
Frederick Craufurd Goodenough (1866-1934) was a child of the Commonwealth, born in Calcutta, raised in England, and an internationalist who created Barclays’ Dominion, Colonial, and Overseas Bank. On Founder’s day we like to say that “Time begins on 4 October 1931, the day on which the first residents of London House arrived”, when FC Goodenough’s vision of an international centre for British Dominion students opened its doors. He came from a Quaker family, and worked in a Quaker institution. His culture was infused with the Quaker principles of truth, equality, justice, peace, and simplicity.
Our Goodenough motto, “Unity in wisdom: none shall separate”, emphasises our tightly bound academic community. A Quaker quote in Latin goes Veritatem loquar hominibus et potentibus. Quakers hate pretension, so I’ll say it in plain English, “Speak truth to power and all men”. Tell it like it is. Mrs May, there are nowheres, somewheres, anywheres, and everywhere.
We have become a “United Nations in one square” that inculcates British values to the benefit of a global common wealth of peoples. I believe tolerance is classic British liberalism’s most unsung ideal. The British are a tolerant people – and for that we love them. They are tolerant to all foreigners, having us in their land, allowing us to make fun of them and to share their sense of humour and fair play. The US poet, Robert Frost, quipped, “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” That is the virtue of tolerance; and core to a community of learning and honest discourse. I would introduce Everywhere to the debate, to embrace mankind everywhere with tolerance. “Speak truth to power and all men”.
Goodenough believed in doing a job well. You may have heard the expression. “Sometimes good enough is good enough.” FC would have none of that. Somerset Maugham observed, like my wife, “It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”
Ole Kirk Christiansen, a Danish carpenter, had a wooden sign hanging on his wall that read, “Det bedste er ikke for godt”: “Only the best is good enough.” Today, Christiansen is remembered as the inventor of Lego, the colourful bricks beloved by children and adults around the world. “Lego” derives from the Danish phrase “leg godt”, “play well”. The official Lego history tells of Ole forcing his son Godtfred to recall wooden ducks he’d sold with two coats of varnish, not three. In 1936 Godfret hangs Ole’s motto “Only the best is good enough” up in the workshop.
Our Founder delivered the best to his student community. Major-General Andrew Ritchie, who stepped down last month, led the entire team here to deliver the best with the refurbishment of both London House and William Goodenough House, and a long-term plan for sustaining Goodenough. We welcome Rebecca Matthews as Director and know she believes, to paraphrase Tina Turner, “Simply the best is Goodenough”.
Over 80 countries are represented here, and the range of studies is mind-numbing, while over 13,000 alumni make a difference around the world. And the best investment reaps the best rewards with alumni such as F W De Klerk, former President of South Africa, who realised here that apartheid couldn’t be sustained; or the “Sir Edmund Hillary of swimming”, Lewis Pugh campaigning to save our oceans.
One can start with the idea that communities define themselves, e.g. “I am a scientist”, “I am an accountant”, “I am an academic”, “I counsel troubled children”. Last year, Chairman Eric Tracey stood before you in a Maori cloak as an accountant, a Kiwi, and many things beside. I stand before you belonging to many nations, America, Britin, Ireland, Italy, and German, French, and many other communities too. I am garbed as the figurehead of the Worshipful Company of World Traders’ community, of which Eric too is a former Master.
Teresa May was wrong. People can and do belong to multiple communities, some of which they’re proud, some ashamed, some voluntary, some imposed, some they wouldn’t consider communities. I contend that being a citizen of the world doesn’t mean you can’t be a citizen of many somewheres at the same time.
FC Goodenough was part of many communities, including trade and commerce. Professor James Walvin writes, “There was more to this Quaker business success than mere institutional behaviour, or the self- help common to many other groups. Quakers were honest – and were accepted as honest (even by their enemies). Prudence, truth and frugality all went together – all part of their ‘calling’.” Quakers were noted businesspeople of quality. Given their passion for simplicity, they were often, paradoxically, purveyors of luxury, and their brands endure, Cadbury, Rowntree, Lloyds, Nike, Amnesty, Greenpeace. They were ‘mongers’.
The word ‘monger’ is old Saxon-German for trader or trafficker. Think, ‘drugmonger’. This trading City is therefore full of Ironmongers, Fishmongers, Lightmongers, Costermongers, Cheesemongers, and even Fearmongers. Perhaps the Master of the World Traders should be a WorldMonger or GlobeMonger. Pssst, hey buddy, want to buy a planet?
Goodenough was a monger in the City of London, the oldest continuous democracy and commercial community in the world. From Adam Smith onwards, thinkers have increasingly recognised that commerce is about much more than making money. Commerce is about social interactions where people trade ideas, opinions, or merchandise. Trade reaps economic benefits from specialisation and comparative advantage, creates prosperity, distributes success and wealth, and collectively enriches all our societies and communities. Trade is a force for good.
This year’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Charles Bowman, promotes the Business of Trust. His research sets out five principles for trust – five good principles for new graduates. Remember the mnemonic C-I-V-I-C:
- Competence and skills – doing what you do well;
- Integrity – being honest, straightforward, and reliable;
- Value to society – recognising and meeting wider societal needs;
- Interests of others – respecting the interests of customers, employees, and investors;
- Clear communication – being transparent, responsive, and accountable.
Trust underpins all trade and investment, firmly based on the City of London’s motto, “Meum Fidem, Meum Pactum” (“my word is my bond”).
The Jesuit scholar, Timothy Radcliffe, talks about universities as places where we “learn to talk to strangers.” As you trade with strangers, they become colleagues, and later colleagues become friends. Trade should be win-win with other people. As the UK increasingly focuses on trade, remember that no-one should ‘export to’, everyone should ‘trade with’.
So CIVIC, I repeat:
- Value to society
- Interests of others
- Clear communication
What I admire about Goodenough is that we exemplify all five CIVIC principles. Study increases Competence. Learning builds Integrity. Value accrues to increased Professionalism. Our community takes the Interests of others to heart. We simultaneously promote action and study. As Seneca the Younger, stated, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”
We have such great opportunities. The world is changing as never before, socially, technologically, economically, and politically. It may be a bit crowded now, seven billion people is over double the world I was born into, but even that will change as we are looking to demographic numbers reversing direction about 2050. You will have outstanding chances to use your learning. You will never stop learning and trading.
This year, the World Traders, young and old, Journeymen your age to ancient Liverymen like me, have focused on “Technology & Trade” as our theme. We are studying how technology transforms trade through debates, workshops, and even research into blockchains, published at the House of Commons as “The Economic Impact Of Smart Ledgers On World Trade”. We look forward to being in this hall next Monday and working with you to set an Everywhere Guinness World Record for the most nationalities singing a pop song.
So, should we be optimistic or pessimistic? A number of nationalities walk into a bar and are asked, “are you optimistic or pessimistic?”:
- the Englishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Remain”;
- the Scotsman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Referendum”;
- the Irishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Border”;
- the Canadian says, “pessimistic, Trump”;
- the German says, “pessimistic, Euro”;
- the Australian says, “pessimistic, North Korea”;
BUT Goodenough says, “optimistic, pessimism is for better times.”
All of life is learning and trade. In fact, I’ve improved a bit of Shakespeare to get that point across. Indulge me:
All the world’s exchange,
And all the men and women merely traders;
They have their wares and their merchandises,
And one man in his time plies much commerce,
His acts being short changes.
[Jacques: As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7, lines 139-143]
May I ask you, the Goodenough Community,
- to ponder our Founder’s commitment to Quakerism, quality, and commerce;
- to remember that there are nowheres, somewheres, and anywheres, but everywhere should be Goodenough;
- and to go forth inspired by the motto the Worshipful Company of World Traders traded with Thomas Jefferson from 1801, “COMMERCE AND HONEST FRIENDSHIP WITH ALL.”
May I wish each of you all the success you will earn.
Would you join me in three cheers for Goodenough College and our Founder,