British politician and activist Lord Simon Woolley has described De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) as ‘the people’s university, belonging to everyone, where everybody can excel’.
Lord Woolley, who was raised in the St Matthew’s council estate in Leicester and went on to be knighted and appointed a crossbench member of the House of Lords, was this week awarded an honorary degree by DMU and made a Doctor of Social Sciences in recognition of his outstanding achievements.
Lord Woolley was the founder of Operation Black Vote – a campaign based on his own research which showed the importance of the black vote and its influence, particularly in marginal seats.
He is a trustee of Police Now, which encourages more Black, Asian and minority ethnic representation in the police force, has led the Equality and Human Rights Commission and is seen as the architect and influence for the Government’s Race Disparity Unit.
In 2021, Lord Woolley became the first black man to head up an Oxbridge college after being appointed as principal of Homerton College, Cambridge.
Before accepting the award Lord Woolley said: “I have a mantra I personally live by and offer as some words of wisdom – it is not where you start from. It is where you go.
“But perhaps even more importantly it is where you go with character and integrity, and with values that mean that, whatever you do, it is not just about you but what you need to do to change other people’s lives.
“A university like De Montfort University can proudly present itself as the people’s university, belonging to everyone and a place in which everyone can excel.
“I hope that my experience, and accepting the recognition of this wonderful honour, will inspire a new generation at DMU to believe that they can do extraordinary things in the world.”
Lord Woolley also delivered a powerful acceptance speech to the hundreds of students graduating from DMU this week, with the audience of graduands’ family and friends regularly applauding as he spoke.
After inviting all of the graduates to stand up on the stage at Curve Leicester, he said: “Look around you, look at your peers, feel the energy, and know that it is you that will change our world. It is you that will inspire a generation.
“If anyone has any doubt about what you say your reply should be ‘Simon Says…’.
“Simon says ‘I am going to be brilliant’, Simon says ‘I am going to be creative’, Simon says ‘I am going to change the world’.”
Watch the film of Lord Woolley’s fantastic speech here (Start at 55 mins)
Posted on Friday 15th September 2023