My first major constituency engagement after being elected in 1997 was the opening by the Queen and Prince Philip of the ill-fated Siemens factory. I was an anxious new MP and some of the women guests shared my anxiety because in the warm, optimistic days following the election they were not wearing hats. There was some concern that this breach or protocol may draw comment not least from the often outspoken Prince. We need not have worried. The Prince was courteous, inquisitive and amusing, putting everyone at their ease.
Public service should mean putting the people you serve first and making them feel valued and involved. Prince Philip was a remarkable public servant. He served our country in war, he was at the side of his monarch for more than seven decades and he gave his time to great causes including conservation and inter faith understanding and collaboration.
His greatest legacy however may be the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme set up in 1956. Millions of young people in this country and around the world have been given the confidence to find talents within themselves they never knew they had. I am sometimes told the wartime generation which included Prince Philip was unique and sometimes I am asked whether we shall ever see their like again. In many ways they were unique, in the challenges which they overcame. But I am optimistic that today’s young people will rise to their own challenges, as many have during this pandemic, with greater confidence because of the Award scheme the Duke himself created.
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