Words in tribute to Esperanza Aguirre delivered by Jimmy Burns Marañon , president of the British-Spanish Society, at the Society’s Gala Dinner, The Palace of Westminster March 14th 2014
- Posted by British Spanish Society
- On March 15, 2014
This is an important fund raising event for the British Spanish Society and I can think of no better Spaniard to talk to us than Esperanza Aguirre, who has promoted consistently, effectively and most elegantly the friendship between Spain and the United Kingdom.
Esperanza Aguirre, Countess of Bornos ten years ago had a title bestowed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth –that of Dame Commander of the British Empire. As the British ambassador at the time Sit Stephen Wright who is with us tonight can confirm, Esperanza thus became the first Spaniaird woman ever to granted such a title by a British monarch in recognition of her commitment to building bridges between two nations as minister of culture and President of the Senate, a work she continued as President of the regional government of Madrid when, with the support of the British Council, she threw her weight behind a significant expansion of English language education in local schools.
Esperanza Aguirre is something very rare in Spain. She genuinely likes us Britons. She makes no bones about this. She is in an anglophile to the core- hasta la medulla.
In a few moments she will be sharing some deeper insights into why likes the British. But as a journalists, I cannot resist anticipating her speech with a few exclusive revelations of my own her private life.
I can exclusively reveal loves what she most likes about the UK is Stilton and Shortbread, and Jack Russels – she has one herself. She read Enid Blyton as a child and Margaret Thatcher’s Downing Street years when she was an up and coming politician.
It is quite extraordinary what a few years in the British Council School of Madrid-that wonderful enduring institution founded in the 1940’s by the legendary Walter Starkie- managed to do to her when she was a child. With all respect for the amabassadors here present tonight,can I suggest that If Britain wanted to create friends around the world it could do a lot worse than to close its embassies and open up British Council Schools instead.
But that said, Esperanza Aguirre is as Spanish as they come. There are no ifs and buts about her. She is straightforward, says what she thinks and, as far as is humanly possible, does what she says. Her recognition is total in Spain and, judging by the extraordinary demand to attend this gala dinner it is very high indeed here as well.
And here permit me a very personal observation. Yesterday Esperanza kindly agreed to come to a reception we had oragnised in the NH proincipally for those who had been unable to secure tickets for tonight’s dinner. Among those who turned up at strat o the reception were two unvinvited individuals who indetnified themselves as young Spanish immigrant women who were protesting about the closure-through lack of fundng- of a bilingual school for young Spanish children near London’s Portobello Road.
Esperanza greeted the two women graciously and treated them with great kindness , listening to their problems and promising she would try and get support from the Spanish minister of education when she returned to Madrid.
Such genority and nobility of spirit personified Esoeranza’s whol attitude during this visit to London showing in the way she teeats all men and women equally-egardles of class, title, or job description-not just a great politician but a true human being.
Esperanza Aguirre’s political career has been very distinguished and not without controversy. Tonight we welcome a very special highly cultured Spanish lady who is a true friend of Britain. And we are very grateful that she accepted to be our most honoured guest.
Concluding remarks by the President of the British Spanish Society after Esperanza’s speach
I wanted to bring tonight’s proceedings to a close with a tribute to Four characterst hat between them sum up the presence of history and sense of cultural engagement of this evening-
First, there is one of Esperanza’s political heroes- Winston Churchill of course-that great Englishman and European- arguably the great figure of the 20thcentury who saved the democracy we enjoy today- not least in this parliament.;
Second, there is Don Quixote that universal literary figure whose sense of nobility, fair play, and selfless sacrifice to the cause of the common good should be an example to us all…
,,, and finally two huge artistic figures that straddle the world of creativity and whose 400th and 450th anniversaries we celebrate this year –
The magnificent mystic El Greco and –And last but by means least – William Shakespeare, that towering giant of a poet and dramatist so much admired by all of us, not least our Spanish ambassador Federico Trillo who wrote a thesis on him- and Esperanza who shared a table with me last night at the most convivial of all private men’s clubs on London- The Garrick . Out of respect for our honoured guest tonight I paraphrase part of the verse that club members like myself much cherish
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one woman in her time plays many parts,
Her acts being seven ages….
A BIG thankyou
Has estado fenomal!
With that I officially declare this particular act concluded…..
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