David Lammy, Labour Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, England, has teamed up with Junior Achievement of Trinidad and Tobago (JAOTT) to provide mentoring and advice to the youth development organisation for its annual Leadership Debating Series.
Lammy, who was elected MP for Tottenham, North London, in 2000, held discussions recently with JA executive members and advisers on plans for the 2018 debating initiative which is open to secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago. The informative session, which took place at the Helen May Johnstone Room at Queen’s Hall, Port of Spain, was also attended by Kabir Singh and Jerod Griffith, of Presentation College, Chaguanas, winners of the 2017 Leadership Debate Series.
Noting that he speaks in the UK Parliament “unencumbered by paper or notes”, Lammy pointed out that debating was a key skill in today’s world, made more important in the age of social media and popular culture. “English is the dominant global language, and since it is our first language, we should know how to express it to get the greatest effect. It worries me that not too many people are articulate. I wholly commend Junior Achievement in Trinidad and Tobago for embarking on this initiative to get the secondary school students to hone their public speaking and debating skills,” said Lammy, himself a former JA student in England.
“You have to be persuasive and tenacious in your argument. You have to stick to your point and convince your audience that your position is the correct one. You are really taking people with you on your journey,” said the UK MP, who is of Guyanese ancestry.
A lawyer, Lammy, who served as a government minister for eight years (2002-2010) in two Labour Party administrations, recounted the lofty traditions of oratory in the venerable House of Commons, noting that it was “a very daunting amphitheatre with the weight of history on your shoulders”.
He also made mention of the monumental contributions of black leaders in oratory and shaping the world in colossal figures such as Martin Luther King jr. and Nelson Mandela.
Some of the key issues he raises in the UK Parliament deal with race, poverty and education, with special reference to Tottenham, which he, explained, is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in Europe.
JAOTT Executive Director, J. Errol Lewis, welcomed Lammy’s input in the Leadership Debate Series. “Mr Lammy was scheduled to come for the 2017 finals which took place at the Central Bank but he had to cancel because there was an important vote in the House of Commons on Brexit at that time. However, he sent a very encouraging message via Skype while the final was in progress. We are grateful for his association with JA on the Leadership Debating Series. His mentorship and support is complemented by have that of our own MP, Esmond Ford, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who chaired the championship debate between Presentation College and Queen’s Royal College,” Lewis pointed out.
Presentation College student Kabir Singh, 2017 Leadership Debate Series winner, said he was thrilled to meet MP Lammy and listen to his advice. “It is a special occasion for us to get the opportunity to speak with Mr Lammy and learn about his experiences in the British Parliament and get valuable pointers from him. This is really the icing on the cake for this entire debating experience,” Singh enthused.
Attending the session with Lammy were JAOTT directors Anthony Pierre (chairman) and Dawn Richards.