Leader of Harlow Council channels JFK in speech at civic service

News / Tue 9th Nov 2021 at 03:02pm

THE new leader of Harlow Council made his first keynote speech at the Harlow Civic Service on Sunday morning.

Councillor Russell Perrin used the platform to base his speech on regeneration. As a science teacher, he channeled a number of sources (including President John F Kennedy’s speech on space.

Cllr Perrin said: “Thank you to Rev. Martin Harris for inviting me to speak here with you all today.

I am delighted to be here, and I’m particularly delighted to be here on this occasion.

We meet at a church noted for its compassion, in a town noted for its scientific progress, in a Country noted for its strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in a time of great change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

Despite the striking fact that most of the scientists that the world has ever known are alive and working today, despite the fact that this Nations own scientific manpower has delivered a Vaccine at breakneck speed, where most Vaccines suffer a fate worse than Devon Loch at the Grand National and fall at the final hurdle, despite that, the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension.

No one can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of mans recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power.

Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and cars and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and we landed on the Moon only a few moments ago.

This is a breath-taking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills, as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas this new knowledge provides promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.

Small wonder this dizzying pace of change, often labelled to be the cause of apathy and disenfranchisement of many people in our society, leads to calls from some to slow down. They would have us rest a little while longer, to wait. Sadly, this has been the case for too long here in Harlow. Our great town is tired. Its estates are tired, its roads weary our town centre fatigued. 

Tragically this town of ours was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. It was done so by those that looked forward, so we too must look forward. 

I do not attribute the cause of apathy to rapid progress. The apathy many see out there I do not see. I do not see apathy. I see that despite the Warp speed changes we have seen in so many other aspects of our lives, the means by which democratic institutions operate and engage with its citizens have not matched pace. Often moving at an irritating near glacial speed. Therefore, I see frustration. Frustration with the decline so keenly observed by citizens heightened by their collective impotence in not being able to enact positive change. The people of our town have immense Civic pride, if they did not, our in boxes would not be overflowing with messages to get the hedges cut and mow the grass. When we elected officials knock on their doors they wouldn’t complain about the state of things. The fact is they do, the fact is care. It is not enough to give voice to peoples’ concerns, look at Twitter and Facebook, there is voice enough and plenty more besides. No, we must have progressive and fast evolving strategies to allow all those who want to, to engage and bring about positive meaningful change both independently and in tandem with democratic institutions. 

Because it is only when we act together, driving as one will we succeed both as a town and a Country at large.

Those who came before us made certain that this town rode the first waves of the New Town revolutions, embracing new thinking around home construction, social spacing and progressive living. We too must create a new wave. A wave of rebirth and regeneration in our town – we mean to lead it. For the eyes of our towns people now look to us to achieve this high purpose. The administration I lead will be one of renewal and regeneration – An Easter day Administration.

As I begin my summation, If the congregation will indulge me a little here, I intend to draw further upon the words of John F Kennedy in my concluding remarks, providing a contemporary twist: 

William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

We choose to Regenerate our town. We choose to Regenerate our town in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.

It is for these reasons that I regard the decision of my administration to shift our efforts in Regenerating our town from low to high gear as among the most important decision that will be made during my time in office. 

Harlow has been a great place for many people to live and work over the past 75 years. If Harlow, in the next 75 years, is to continue being a great place to live and work, if it is to continue to be a place of enterprise and innovation, if it is to continue as a green and pleasant Jewel in our Country’s landscape, then it will require all sections of our town’s society to pull together to bring about its regeneration and renewal. It will require not only my administration’s efforts but the efforts of all. It will require the effort of this town’s great local charities, local business both large and small, volunteer groups, partner organisations and all its people.

In Common Endeavour we shall succeed, I make that commitment to you, and that success shall be to the benefit and prosperity of all.

Cllr R. Perrin

Leader Harlow Council 7th November 2021

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