I have just come back from what I can easily say was an absolutely superb evening at Kingston University to hear a talk by Sir Trevor McDonald, who is the ITN News' first Black News Presenter and also an astounding Journalist, hosted by KU Talent at the University's Penrhyn Road Campus.
The plans for this event began at 2.30am this morning when my housemate was locked out of the house after she forgot to let us know she would be out late and therefore not lock the door. Whilst half asleep, she explains to me that she'd won a competition to meet Sir Trevor McDonald and wanted to invite me to be her "plus one". "Oh and wear something good for the cameras" she added. With a 6.3oam wake up call for my French Oral class at 9am in London, the idea of having to go straight from a 5pm finish to an event where I needed to look great in front of a camera or perhaps meet a very important person didn't seem so great to me. However, I made the effort to ensure that I was wearing something nice and that I arrived on time and in good spirits.
It turned out that my housemate was in fact a VIP to this event. She and I (although apparently I wasn't supposed to be) were sat on the front row in direct view with Sir Trevor and had the best seats in the auditorium. To enter the competition, my housemate and 600 other applicants submitted their own questions that would potentially be addressed to Sir Trevor at the end of his talk by the student who wrote their own question. My housemate's question earned her this reward and so we took this privilege to the full (amongst 300 others) by really engaging with Trevor's stories and taking away as much advice as we could.
The first thing I noticed about Sir Trevor, was the immediate connection he made with his audience through his witty and funny remarks about himself that brought him down to a level that dissolved any negative connotations surrounding his position as someone superior or famous. Throughout his talk, he explained some really fascinating stories about his initial expectations whilst travelling and interviewing important people such as Saddam Hussain, George Bush, Nelson Mandela and how these findings have shaped the way he sees the world today. A significant point he made to the big crowd of young people sat in front of him, was that when you are young, you think you know everything and you'll only be surprised at how things do not always turn how you'd expect. Do not pre-judge anything beforehand.
His advice was incredibly inspirational - so much so that on several occasions, I almost stood up, put my hands in the air and burst into a Gospel Choir number and shouted AMEN. My favourite piece of his advice was that "you should never listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do something. If people have their own limits, do not let them project it on to you. You can achieve anything in life through hard work and commitment. Do it."
Another point I found very interesting was his opinion on Britain's attitude towards change and progress. He explained that in America, they have a very ''can-do" attitude, always focusing on the positive and really believing that they can make things happen. Whereas, in the U.K we still lack the motivation perhaps, to take risks and get things done.
After he finished answering the winners' questions, we were led to a room where we had some drinks and food and were able to chat with Sir Trevor and have some photographs with the professional photographer. I realised when in the same room with him that I have a thing with celebrities or famous people where I don't like to get too cosy with them (as I'm sure most would) as it takes away the magic of their identity and their professionalism. I prefer to just admire and respect them from afar, like a committed band-lover or theatre-goer. Or maybe it's because I feel I wouldn't have anything interesting to say to them and feel a bit overwhelmed by their prescence. Either way, just to be amongst the company of a truly inspirational, iconic and kind man was such a privilege and a real treat. Well done to KU Talent for producing a lovely evening that ran so smoothly and I hope there will be more to come.
Here's Sir Trevor on This Morning speaking about his documentary on Death Row