Old Brunnian, Mark Sedwill CMG, Guest of Honour at Speech Night Friday 21 November 2014.
It really was a very great pleasure to welcome as our Guest of Honour former student Mark Sedwill CMG. Mark is presently Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, a post of great seniority in which he is the non-political head of that major Government department. In his speech in the Abbey, after giving out the many prizes, Mark spoke of his long and incredibly varied diplomatic career which, after leaving Bourne Grammar, has led him all over the world. Serving in Iraq, Cyprus, Pakistan, Afghanistan - the latter as HM Ambassador and then Senior NATO Representative - Mark spoke of his dodging at least three assassination attempts and how his work had required him to become fluent in Arabic.
Before the ceremony in the Abbey Mark was received at School by the Head Students and the Chair and Vice-Chair of Governors and I was pleased to see that he spent most of the half-hour or so speaking with the six Head Students. It was not long before they asked him about people he had met in the course of his diplomatic career and, inevitably, they were impressed most by Mark's recounting of his several meetings with President Obama, including in the Oval Office.
It is always a great joy to see the students receive their prizes and especially this time when so many former students, most now at university, had travelled back to Bourne to receive theirs too. Mark spoke with each and then spoke to us all, brilliantly. I suspect that few of our students know that careers such as Mark’s, which involve serving our country overseas, moving from country to country, and meeting and working with people from many different cultures, are ones that they might consider. Perhaps Mark may have inspired some to think of such routes when the time comes. It was fascinating to hear that Mark had never planned a particular career route; having started in the diplomatic service after degrees at St Andrews and Oxford, he simply took advantage of opportunities as they were presented to him, and these took him all round the world before, eventually, a very senior civil service post in London.