We had the 2002 AGM at the end of May. There was a bigger turnout than last year which was encouraging. Our new chairman, Simon Poole, gave his first speech in which he thanked all of those who had helped him start out in his new role. He said that he took great pride in all that the society has done, and mentioned Ian Gregory’s performance on a recent Radio 4 debate as one example. He said that courtesy is beneficial in all walks of life since we all interact with each other, whether in business, socially or in the home. He sees the Campaign as the vehicle for the message that we need to raise standards in society, and in order to achieve this, is keen to find sponsorship in order to gain more publicity.
He told us that we are broadening our range of patrons – among the list we have Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Henry Cooper, Dr Jonathon Sacks, Esther Ranzen and Roy Hudd. In his founders speech, Ian said that sometimes it feels as if we are like dinosaurs who escaped extinction when the meteorite of man’s arrogance crashed into the earth, but we are still well regarded. He said that people often forget how much society has progressed, especially in terms of health care, technology, social welfare and so on, but the important values of human interaction seems to be regressing, and many people now have an opinion that we live in a shabby, foul-mouthed nation where violence and profanity are common place. It is important to commend the good things in society, rather than spend time condemning things, and he reminded us that many of the things that we notice depend on our own perception and view of the world. Ian told us that he believes listening skills are the hardest of the ‘Listen, Slow down, Smile’ keystones, but it is an important skill to have if we are to prevent the slide towards a selfish society.
Gerry Hansen began his speech quoting Dame Edith Sitwell: ‘I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty…But I am too busy thinking about myself’. He went on to congratulate Ian on the Silver Cross of St George award that he received from ‘This England’.
As usual, the catering was top notch, and we had two new members elected onto the council, so it was a very successful day.
We have chosen the theme Short Fuse for our National Courtesy Day this Friday (5th October 2001). We feel that everyone is living on a short fuse – many people do anyway, but it is heightened at the moment – and they are flying off the handle at the slightest provocation. Say the wrong thing and someone may smack you one. We want to encourage people to slow down, listen to one another and smile. These things help you to react in a more controlled way, which makes others’ lives more agreeable, is good for your love life and good for business.
The AGM was held in Newcastle-under-Lyme on Saturday June 2nd. After 12 years as chairman, Gerry Hanson resigned, and passed the baton of office (an envelope containing a Campaign For Courtesy pen and tie) to Simon Poole, who was elected the new chairman. Gerry spent a great deal of time and effort on the Campaign, appearing frequently on radio and television where his dulcet tones and sharp wit were put to good use. B
The Prime Minister’s call for the return of respect in all areas of public life has been firmly endorsed by the Campaign For Courtesy, a charity formed to promote good manners.
“We were delighted that Mr Blair focused on this as a key issue in the revival of this nation’s fortunes” said Campaign founder Ian Gregory. In an address to the annual meeting on May 18th he said that although with technology and science we were living in the space age, in social order and personal relationships “we are still in the stone age”.
Lack of respect in personal relationships was at the root of a national sickness called stress said Mr Gregory. Why was there low morale among people in almost every profession, from the police, to teachers, farmers, nurses and civil servants ? Why were children leaving school with academic awards, but few social graces ?
“You would have thought, with the steady advance of civilisation over at least two centuries that at least here in the West we would by now have reached the promised land of fearless prosperity and contentment. The slave trade officially ended in 1838, so why are so many people enslaved to depression ?”.
There was an epidemic of loneliness. Surgeries were overwhelmed with unhappy people. There was a mood of surly discontent and ‘me-centered misery’ which no legislation was able or mandated to cure.
The picture could change with a wide acceptance of the need to behave with courtesy towards others, in spite of the aggression and frustration which we all encountered in every area of personal life
“We have to accept the slings and arrows of daily experience, but it helps if we live by the statement which forms the basis of our organisation: that manners matter.”