Jacqui Smith – 2008 Speech at the Philip Lawrence Awards

Below is the text of the speech made by Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, on 2 December 2008.

I am very pleased to be here today to meet the Philip Lawrence Award winners.

The Awards recognise the tremendous achievements of the many young people spending their own time to make a positive change in their communities.

Not only that, but they stand as a tremendous tribute to the memory Philip Lawrence and as a testament to the determination of Frances to honour that memory in a very meaningful way.

Continued support for the Awards

It is my privilege to be here today to show our continued support for the Awards that were first set up by Michael Howard in 1996 with the full approval of Frances.

She has been a great example to us all over the years and the Awards have provided an important platform for recognising the many people who work so hard to combat violence, vandalism, bullying and racism wherever they find it.

Far too often in the media, young people are portrayed as criminal or yobs. But these youngsters represent a tiny minority of the youth of this country.

I share Frances’ view that every child is capable of greatness. I also believe that the vast majority want to play a role in making our society a better place to live for everyone.

Celebrating outstanding contributions

That’s why we are here today. To celebrate the outstanding contribution that young people make to our society. To redress the balance and to show that young people can – and do – make a positive contribution to our communities.

The fact that we received so many nominations from all around the country clearly demonstrates the positive impact that young people are having across our towns and cities every day.

I met the initial panel in September when they were sifting through the mountain of entries and I have to say they had their work cut out for them. But the effort was well worth it and what fantastic winners we have.

We have ‘Reclaim’ from Manchester who have been working hard to challenge negative stereotypes and behaviour, as well as tackling youth violence in their area.

Giving young people a voice on social issues

We are also recognising the work of the ‘Young Muslim Voices Listen Up’ Project in London.

This particular group gives young people a voice on social issues through film, music, discussion, and even sports – as we saw with the ‘Kick Islamaphobia’ football tournament.

That particular scheme involved two local Mosques, Arsenal Football Club, Connexions and the Police.

Other winners hail from Ayrshire and Yorkshire and from the Midlands to Merseyside. Each group has shown how young people can work together to deal with some really challenging issues like strengthening links across the generations; sexual health; drug abuse and knife crime.

The commitment, enthusiasm and energy of these young people stands as an example to us all of how we can work together to tackle these issues head-on.

At the same time, they are building new skills, forging new friendships and setting the foundations for the stronger communities we all want to see.

I know that many previous winners have gone on to be involved with the Philip Lawrence Awards through joining the judging panel or taking part in interviews or other events. This is also something that I’m sure this year’s winners will want to do as well.

Positive about the future

Before I finish, I want to make one more point.

What’s very clear from today is that we don’t live in a ‘broken Britain’. In fact, seeing the energy and commitment of the groups represented here today, I believe we can be quite positive about the future.

You only need to meet some of the young people here to know that there are all sorts of people up and down our country giving up their own time for others.

So I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to be here and I want to congratulate you all again on your achievements.

Thank you.