Inspirational words to mark 450th

Squadron Leader Charlotte Joanne Thompson-Edgar ARRC MSc BA(Hons) MCMI Dip HE RN PMRAFNS attend the Thanksgiving Service on 22 April 2016 and here is what she had to say to 600 guest, staff and pupils.

Ladies, Gentlemen, Distinguished guests, good morning. Firstly, I would like to thank-you for the great honour of being invited to celebrate 450 years of the Harpur Trust, it is an incredible milestone and which I’m sure Sir William Harpur would be very proud.  I have to say, it is wonderful to be back, although it has been a while now, since I was sitting where you are!!

My time, at was then called Bedford High School for Girls, began when I was 9 years old and I stayed here until I was 18, after completing my A Levels.  Okay, I admit, it was a pretty long time ago now but I remember it like it was yesterday.

Preparing for what to say today has been very enlightening for me, I suddenly realised all of the opportunities that my schooling offered me; opportunities that actually, I embarrassingly took very much for granted.  The vast sporting opportunities that were available, so in my case, dragging my poor father out of bed at half past five in the morning to get me to the boathouse for 0600 o’clock, and then there was hockey, Lacrosse, swimming, tennis, it was endless.  And then of course the huge range of subjects to chose from – Latin, French, politics, geology let alone all of the core subjects.

But it was only after reminiscing my school days when I realised what a huge privilege it had been to attend such an amazing school, and the sacrifice my parents made to afford my brother and I such an education. My parents have often joked about the amounts of holidays they could have had all those years ago if we hadn’t gone to Harper Trust Schools, but trust me, they are certainly making up for it now!!!

So, I’ve taken this opportunity to bring my parents with me today, to say thank you for the amazing start you gave me in life and thank you for allowing me to benefit from the guidance and direction of the incredible, experienced teachers here, who helped provide me with the confidence to grow and develop into who I am today.

Being an officer in the military assumes a certain amount leadership and until it was “defined” as such during my initial officer training, it never really crossed my mind.

My time in Afghanistan and Iraq highlighted the many types of different leadership styles and the benefits that effective leadership could have on individuals and teams.

My role as Officer Commanding Medical Emergency Response Teams in Afghanistan involved evacuating the wounded from the battlefield by using a dedicated medical helicopter.  But how did I become the leader I am today?  How and where did I get the courage to lead my team onto the battlefield in order to save others, how did I learn to make those difficult life and death decisions on the back of those helicopters with the sound of enemy gunfire ringing in my ears? How did I learn to put my own emotion and exhaustion aside in order to look after my team?

Certainly, the military taught and developed me a lot but it started long before; it started right here, at school.  Without you realising it, your teachers are letting you develop your leadership skills every day through the opportunities and challenges they provide you.

They encourage you to make decisions, to express your thoughts and to make choices, they certainly taught me to be confident in my decisions, but they also taught me to consider other people’s opinions and the reasons why others might think differently than I do.

Embrace your school values, they will push you to strive for excellence and to be the best you can – the wounded soldiers we evacuated need that excellence, there was no room for second rate care.

– Be innovative, for us it was making the best of what we had in a war zone, being creative and imaginative, and using any spare time to come up with new ideas.

– Value yourself and those around you,  – if you look after your friends, family and later on your colleagues, they will look after you.

Be bold and imaginative, stand up for what you believe in, for what you think is right.

Be reflective, assess those things what went well, or not so well, identify areas that might require change and strive to achieve that change.

And finally, be brave, take that educated risk once in a while, try something new, and be prepared to learn from your mistakes.

I was looking at the incredible accomplishments so many of you have achieved already in the fields of music, sports and academia, you’re already leading the way.

But don’t forget, you don’t need to be a grade A student to make a difference, I know I certainly wasn’t.  I did find academia difficult at times but that doesn’t mean that my education was wasted, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference.

What ever you decide to do later in life….

I wish you all the very best in your exciting future, in a rapidly evolving and changing world, enjoy yourselves and learn as much as you can, be thankful and remember where you are and don’t forget it doesn’t matter how old you are:

As Abraham Lincoln once said:

“…and in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”

Ladies and Gentleman, distinguished guests, thank you.