Norwood Dinner: Prime Minister's speech
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
David Cameron spoke at the annual dinner at Norwood - a charity that supports vulnerable children, families and people with learning disabilities.
I’m just back this morning from the G20 in Brisbane. There are a few challenges at these events, obviously.
But you know what, when you are on the other side of the world, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on some of the things that make our country great.
You’re at an international summit with the biggest and powerful economies on the planet: Britain was back on the global stage, I’m proud to say, with the fastest growing economy of any of the advanced economies.
After the difficult decisions of recent years, we are now home to record numbers of new businesses.
We’ve seen the largest ever fall in unemployment this year and we’ve created more jobs than the rest of the European Union put together.
So I want to say to my colleagues, be in no doubt, Britain is back.
And tonight I think we should sing about some of our strengths. The country that invented the steam engine and the world wide web.
The country that developed penicillin, unravelled DNA and the country that invented most of the sports.
The country that gave the world Shakespeare, Elgar, the Beatles and the X Factor too.
We are the country with the finest armed forces, the nation that stood alone in Europe against Hitler, the mother of Parliaments, the font of democracy and the rule of law.
This kingdom – yes, this United Kingdom, I am pleased to say – is well and truly back.
But it’s not just our history or economic strength, or even our talent and our creativity that makes our country great.
There are some very special other things that make Britain a place we are proud to call home.
I want to share my thoughts on 3 of those things tonight.
Philanthropy and volunteering
Our culture of philanthropy and volunteering.
The way we have built a country that is a welcoming home for people with different cultures, histories and religions. And our values, and willingness to stand up and defend them.
First, one of the greatest things about Britain is that we are one of the most generous nations on earth.
We really do care about those less fortunate than ourselves.
There I was at the G20 this weekend making the case for more sustained global action to deal with Ebola
Once again it’s British troops and British aid workers out there on the front line risking their own lives in an effort to save others.
It’s Britain that has kept its commitment on aid - because as a country, we don’t make promises to the poorest people on the planet and then not meet them.
And it’s the British public who have given over £830 million in the last decade to international appeals for humanitarian causes from the Philippines to West Africa.
And we see that same philanthropy and charitable spirit at home.
Just yesterday on Mitzvah Day more than 35,000 people from 500 charities, synagogues, community organisations, schools and youth groups gave their time to causes in almost every major town and city across the country.
Yes there is a Big Society in Britain.
But I didn’t create it. The British people did. I just want to give it voice and boost it wherever and whenever I can.
And, frankly, there’s no better example of it than right here in this room tonight.
As the parent of a severely disabled son, I know what it’s like to worry about whether your child would have somewhere other than home that they could get the love, care, attention and therapy they really needed.
It’s hard to put into words the emotions you go through as a parent.
So I know what the support of a charity like Norwood can mean.
And I saw that for myself when I had the privilege of visiting Ravenswood to open the Tager Centre in 2009.
What you do and what you are funding tonight quite simply changes lives. It changes thousands of lives every year.
People like Gabriella who aged 3 contracted meningitis and had seizures that damaged her brain.
Her parents were told she would be in a wheelchair and feared she might never walk again.
But today aged 10 – thanks to your outstanding Hope Centre in Brent - she’s not just walking. She’s doing star jumps.
And people like Charlotte who has been with Norwood since nursery. Charlotte, who I met tonight, and who overcame problems with expressing herself to complete her A-levels while volunteering with the Unity club supporting disabled children.
It’s fantastic that Charlotte is here tonight and she will give us the toast. Charlotte – you are magnificent.
You will see in her the confidence and self-belief that comes from world-class, innovative and personalised care in a strong and supportive community.
You see the effects of a charity that gives people the confidence to be happy, the courage to dream but above all the means to fulfil their potential at every stage of their life.
And underpinning this amazing work is that great culture of volunteering which goes hand in hand with our philanthropy.
Volunteers at Norwood contribute 180,000 hours in service every year.
From fundraising to finance…
…from working in the charity shops to running sports sessions…
…from giving children with special needs a day out to befriending adults with learning disabilities.
All of this is so important.
It’s vital support for the staff in delivering the services that Norwood offers.
It’s a great experience for the volunteers themselves.
And, frankly, it’s something I want to see more of in our country.
Earlier this year we set up an awards programme to recognise an outstanding individual volunteer in our country every single day of the week.
It’s called Points of Light – quite simply because we believe there are Points of Light in our communities whose service should be held up as an inspiration to others.
View all the Points of Light so far and see a [Flickr gallery of some of the winners.]https://www.flickr.com/photos/number10gov/sets/72157647113636545/)
It’s something they have been doing in America for 25 years and I thought it was time we did it here too.
And I’m delighted to say that today’s Point of Light – our 156th – is a Norwood volunteer.
Douglas Silas has battled a rare debilitating nerve condition to cycle thousands of miles across Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Israel.
Douglas and his incredible team with Stephen Harrison and Paul Tuhrim have raised £125,000.
This has meant that Norwood has been able to create a music garden for children with autism…
…and provide equipment for a respite centre for disabled children in Hendon.
But it’s not just what Douglas has done. It is also how he has done it.
Someone who cycled with him said this:
I found his uncomplaining approach incredible and quite shaming for those of us whingeing as we go about the daily trivia. He has spirit, courage, humour and intelligence without the absence of ego.
There are a few times in a person’s life when you meet someone who stops you in your tracks and makes you re-evaluate your own life.
A third said in a phrase that will be well understood tonight:
What a man. What a mensch!
Douglas you are an inspiration to us all – you are a Point of Light in our country and I am delighted to able to recognise your service today.
Sense of togetherness
My second reflection in Brisbane was the fact that we, we in Britain – and to a great extent my hosts in Australia – have done something that many other countries can only dream of.
We’ve built a country where in one or two generations people can come with nothing and rise as high as their talent allows.
Running great businesses, representing our country, sitting in our cabinet, running our hospitals, pioneering our universities.
I am not saying there aren’t still barriers to break down, prejudices to over come …
…of course there are…
…but tonight, let’s take a break from the masochism of some of the media and just celebrate what an amazing country this is.
Think of the Kindertransport who came to this country with nothing and yet have given it so much.
Think of the Ugandan Asians who came here and now count amongst their number a government minister, 4 members of the House of Lords, some of the UK’s most successful businesses, a BBC News presenter and the owner of a company providing china to the royal households.
Our success must always be built not on building separate futures, but rather coming together to build a common home.
And to me, Norwood epitomises that sense of togetherness.
You help Arabs, Muslims, Pakistanis and Chinese. You do not discriminate.
You are a charity that is proud to be Jewish, but proud to be British too.
So it is even more distressing when this summer a couple of Norwood charity shops were targeted as part of a number of utterly despicable anti-Semitic attacks.
Let me be very clear.
We will never stand by when such awful things happen – and we will use the full force of the law to prosecute the perpetrators of such disgusting crimes.
I know too that it was your President, Richard, who went out on the media to support this organisation and the community, leading from the front.
And let me say this, no disagreements on politics or policy should ever be allowed to justify racism, prejudice or extremism in any form.
There is never any excuse for anti-Semitism.
It destroys that diverse yet strong society that we are proud to have in this country of ours which we all call home.
And I promise you I will fight anti-Semitism in this country, wherever it is found.
That begins by educating our young people.
One of the reasons why I set up the Holocaust Commission is because I think it is vital that all our young people understand not just what happened in the darkest hour of humanity…
…but also how it happened.
How the steps to prejudice and hatred led ordinary people to do the most extraordinarily awful things.
Today many of our incredible Holocaust survivors are still going into schools and reliving their experiences over and over again, with all the pain and trauma that must bring…
…in order to share their testimony with young people.
As these survivors get ever older and fewer in number, we have a duty to them to ensure that their legacy is never forgotten.
I hope that the Commission’s recommendations will ensure the legacy of our survivors is preserved forever.
And I hope that will include significant measures to improve education around fighting prejudice and anti-Semitism in our schools and our society at large.
The Commission reports in 70 days time - on Holocaust Memorial Day, when the world stands together to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
I hope you will support its recommendations and work with me, and with the other party leaders in taking them forwards.
My third and final reflection on what makes this country so great is the values we hold and our willingness to stand up and defend them.
We are a country that believes in the rule of law.
A country that believes in the fundamental right of individuals to choose and change their governments.
We are country where the press is free, the law is fair, the right to redress universally available, property rights universally enforceable, the freedom of speech the foundation of our democracy.
And we are a country that time and again has been prepared to stand up in defence of the freedoms and values that we hold dear.
Today our armed forces are putting their lives on the line once again as part of an international coalition including Arab States in support of the Iraqis to defeat ISIL.
All of us were sickened by the news yesterday of the murder of another American hostage.
ISIL will be defeated; and these sick and barbaric terrorists will face the justice they deserve.
And just as we are prepared to use force to defend ourselves…
…so we will always stand up for the right of Israel to defend its citizens too – a right enshrined in international law, in natural justice and fundamental morality.
During the summer Hamas rained down rockets on Israel, built extensive tunnels to kidnap and murder, and repeatedly refused to accept ceasefires.
As Prime Minister Netanyahu has said:
Israel uses missile defence to protect its civilians.
Hamas uses civilians to protect their missiles.
There can never be any equivalence between the two.
Yes, like all of you I long for a lasting peace in the Middle East.
I look forward to the day when Israeli parents can send their 18 year old children to university rather than the army.
But that peace does not start with giving into terrorists. It has to be built on the values that make a country successful. And that begins with the rule of law.
Of course, the road to peace in the Middle East remains long and challenging.
But Britain will stand with Israel every step of the way.
Israel is our ally. Israel is our friend. And with me as Prime Minister that will never change.
As I got off the plane this morning I was proud to be back home.
In just the few days that I had been away, Children in Need had raised £32.6 million…
…the English and Scottish Football Associations had agreed to use tomorrow night’s game to raise money for Ebola…
…and Bob Geldof had reformed Band Aid.
We are a truly great and compassionate country.
A place that people of every faith and background can be proud to call home.
A country’s whose values are epitomised by what you do.
Norwood’s values are the values of Britain.
And just as I am proud to be British, I am proud to support Norwood.
Norwood has been at the heart of our country for more than 2 centuries.
Tonight, let us make this our vow – We will make sure that Norwood stays there, as part of Britain, for generations to come.