James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
James at The Springfields Academy
James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
Last week in Parliament had a bit of an International flavour for me.
Monday saw meetings with Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development who gave a robust defence of our overseas aid in terms of moral obligation, but also of key British strategic benefit; a brief meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, who is the most charming and sophisticated man (Oxford and Sandhurst may have helped); then an hour’s chat with the Foreign Secretary in his truly magnificent rooms overlooking Horseguards, and finally a reception for representatives of the Overseas Territories in the Speaker’s State Apartments.
On Tuesday I was delighted as Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces to welcome 140 soldiers from 20 Armoured Brigade to Parliament, led by their charmingly modest Commander, Brigadier Patrick Sanders. Hundreds of Parliamentarians greeted them as they marched through Carriage Gates led by the Band of the Welsh Guards, and then onwards through the Great North Door of Westminster Hall through which the great Duke of Wellington passed on his return from Waterloo.
Wednesday saw lunch for the Dalai Llama followed by a meeting for all Parliamentarians, at which I was able to ask him a question suggesting an Archbishop of Canterbury/Lambeth Palace type solution to the Tibetan Question, with him as the spiritual head of Buddism once again safe in Lhasa’s Potala Palace. He is amongst the most modest of men I have ever met. He answered another question by referring to the four most important principles in his life allied to food – ‘There is food for the body, like the lunch I have just enjoyed, food for the mind without which the body cannot function; spiritual food ; and er.... d’you know I’ve quite forgotten the fourth one!”
Thursday, of course, was the great Parliamentary welcome for Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Westminster Hall. The grandeur of the setting is second to none. But no-one could be more modest than she. A charmingly smiley little lady chatting to 2000 Parliamentarians about democracy.
Grandeur; pomposity; self-importance? No. The thing which all of these people have in common – Andrew Mitchell, King Abdullah, William Hague, Brigadier Sanders, Dalai Llama and Aung San Suu Kyi – is their modesty, almost shyness. They are truly great statesmen, but you would not know it to look at them nor to listen to them. They have committed their lives to the betterment of their nation, or of the Globe as a whole; endured hardships and trials of every sort, been imprisoned and exiled, seen friends killed, worked endless hours and suffered every kind of sling and arrow of outrageous fortune; yet here they are – cheerful, charming, modest and unassuming. We could all learn a great many lessons from them.
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