Well, I’ll be honest, this was unexpected.
I know I’m unexpected to you too,
when you were anticipating that man who looked a bit like the one three men ago,
you know, the one with the grey suit…
Look, I’m not sure of much just yet,
but I am sure that every time I don’t know the answer,
which will be a lot,
I won’t pretend I do.
I won’t make false promises.
I won’t say things just to please you.
I won’t lie just to save myself.
I’ll say, ‘I’m not sure, I’m going to have to engage in the best available evidence and expertise first. I know this is important to all of you and your loved ones so we need to get it right.’
Actually, on that point,
you should really know,
the latest data on this particular crisis landed in my inbox last night
when I was asleep.
Furthermore, I couldn’t review it adequately prior to this speech
because I was walking my dog and eating my breakfast;
you absolutely do not want me around when I’m tired and hungry.
I also know if I don’t look after myself,
I won’t be doing right by you in 2 days’ time,
let alone 2 years’ time.
I won’t build my team without you.
I’ll share the roles and you can make your recommendations.
I’m not resting until we have the very best team assembled,
one that represents all of you,
not all of what you’re used to seeing over here.
Our diverse community,
and not just in name or face
but in voice and action too.
The whole team will make a commitment
to decision making that involves
careful reflection and evidence from research.
This won’t look like what you’re used to,
we’ll involve those who truly represent you,
those actually doing the jobs,
not ones who claim a hypothetical connection
because this needs to work for each of you.
And no, we won’t just give you the solution,
and expect you to approve it
because we’re marching on ahead with it anyway.
We’ll ask what you think we should do.
We won’t rush things out just to move things on,
unless ‘on’ is where we really need to be.
We’ll be honest of voice and courageous of heart.
Our soul will be respect and equity, always.
Not just when it’s the news.
And before we get started on the work ahead,
let’s take a moment to fill these walls,
with artists, musicians, comedians, actors and poets,
to carry us through what’s to come.
For it’s now more than ever,
I’m sure you’ll agree,
that we need art to lift our souls,
to open doors and windows
on the world inside of us and out.
This writing was in response to today’s 64 million artists January challenge from Natalie Tharraleos, selected by Lemn Sissay. ‘You wake up and find you have been given leadership of your country, and you can choose to organise the nation however you like, with whatever values you feel passionate about. You are about to make your first speech to everyone.’ My initial reaction to this task was, oh no, I don’t want to be in charge. I’m too tired and far too ill-equipped! After the events of recent days and my thoughts with our teachers and school leaders, the words spilled out, not questioning my thoughts or caring for perfection, as I hoped with every bone in my body for a leader who might one day greet us with love, honesty and respect.