|Sir Peter Jennings CVO|
The English-Speaking Union (ESU) is an international educational charity which was founded by the journalist Sir Evelyn Wrench in 1918 that aims to bring together and empower people of different languages and cultures, by building skills and confidence in communication, such that individuals realise their potential. With almost 40 branches in the United Kingdom and over 50 international branches in countries around the world, the ESU promotes a variety of activities such as debating, public speaking and student exchange programmes, runs conferences and seminars, and offers scholarships, to encourage the effective use of the English language around the globe.
The Aims of the English-Speaking Union (as stated on its website) are as follows:
The Union promotes:
1. The mutual advancement of education of the English-speaking peoples of the world, in particular respecting their heritage, traditions and aspirations, the events and issues of the day affecting them, their inter-relationships and
2. The use of English as a shared language and means of international communication of knowledge and understanding:
provided always that these are at all times pursued in a non-political and non-sectarian manner.
These aims are taken from the ESU's Royal Charter
The ESU was established in 1918 through the efforts of Sir Evelyn Wrench. In 1957 it received a Royal Charter, with Queen Elizabeth II as the royal patron. Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, has been President since 2013, having taken over from her father Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh who served from 1952 to 2012. Headquartered at Dartmouth House, Mayfair, London, its many activities are coordinated by the Director-General. The twenty-seven-member Board of Governors meets three times a year.
- Sir Frederick Whyte (1938)
- Air Chief Marshal Sir Douglas Evill (1947–1949)
- Frank Darvall (1949–1957)
- Air Chief Marshal Sir Francis Fogarty c. 1958
- Wynn Hugh-Jones (1973–1977)
- Major-General David Crichton Alexander (1977–1979)
- Alan Lee Williams (1979–1986)
- Richard Heaslip (1987–1989)
- David Hicks (1989–1991)
- David Thorp (1991–1994)
- Valerie Mitchell (1994–2009)
- Mike Lake (2009–2011)
- Peter Kyle (2011–2014 )
- Jane Easton (2014-)
Debating and public speaking
In many circles the ESU is best known for its major educational activity, the promotion of debate as an educational tool. The English-Speaking Union Centre for Speech and Debate, established in 1995 to co-ordinate the organisation's work in persuasive spoken English, is one of the world's major supporters of formal debate. In the United Kingdom it runs the national championships in debating for schools (the ESU Schools Mace, the largest and oldest competition of its kind in the world) and universities (the John Smith Memorial Mace, named after the former Labour party leader John Smith who was a member of the winning team of the competition in 1962 and died in 1994). Other winners of the universities mace include Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Liberal Democrats. The ESU also runs competitions in mooting, a form of legal argument, and public speaking. The flagship moot of the ESU is the English Speaking Union Moot.
The Public Speaking Competition for Schools was started in 1960 by the Brighton and Hove branch of the ESU. It has evolved to become an illustrious national competition which provides a forum for the promotion of effective spoken English. Unlike the ESU Schools Mace, this is not a debating competition. The format of the Public Speaking Competition is non-confrontational in nature. The role of the chairperson is to introduce the speaker and his or her topic, call on the questioner and the audience members to put questions to the speaker and summarise the overall presentation as part of his or her conclusion. The role of the questioner is to ask probing questions with a view eliciting more information from the speaker and expanding the discussion as a whole. Former winners include Cheltenham Ladies College and Magdalen College School, Oxford. The 2013 National Champions are Blundell's School.
The Centre teaches debate through outreach programmes, teacher training and the provision of resources. It offers teaching support to overseas ESUs and also selects and trains the England Schools Debating Team which competes in the World Schools Debating Championships each year. The ESU hosted that tournament in London in 1999.
Secondary School Exchange Programme
British students, having completed their A-Levels, can spend two or three terms at a private prep school in the United States or Canada during their gap year. In return American students come to British schools. Originally known as the British and American Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Exchange, the programme was created in 1928. Former British ESU student exchange scholars include:
- Sir Ian Blair (Harvard-Westlake School) – commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
- Sir John Bond (Cate School 1959) – chairman of HSBC
- Sir Richard Dearlove (Kent School) – director of MI6
- Dawn French (Spence School) – actress and comedienne
- Michael Davies (Mercersburg Academy) - television producer/personality
- Chris Hawkins (Tabor Academy) – radio presenter
- KT Tunstall (Kent School) – popular musician
American ESU student exchange scholars include:
The US-UK Debate Tour Exchange
Two outstanding British student debaters are chosen each year to tour approximately 30 states over three months. The ESU USA Tour is one of the most prestigious awards in University debating. In return two American debaters visit universities and institutions in the UK. The programme was established in 1922. Alumni of the British team include:
- Rab Butler (1924) – Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary
- Michael Ramsey (1925) -Archbishop of Canterbury
- Hans-Jürgen von Blumenthal (1930) – member of the July 20 Plot to assassinate Hitler
- Michael Foot (1934) – leader of the Labour Party
- Edward Heath (1939) – Prime Minister
- Tony Benn (1947) – Labour cabinet minister
- Robin Day (1949) – broadcaster
- William Rees-Mogg (1951) – editor of The Times
- Patrick Mayhew (1953) – Northern Ireland Secretary
- Brian Walden (1958) – broadcaster
- Leon Brittan (1961) – Vice-President of the European Commission
- Michael Howard (1963) – leader of the Conservative Party
- Jonathan Aitken (1964) – Conservative politician and former journalist
- Norman Lamont (1965) – Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Peter Bazalgette (1976) – businessman with interests in the media
as well as a significant number of MPs, QCs and other notable figures.
The ESU's International Headquarters is located in London, however there are also a number of national branches and associations.
- English-Speaking Union Scotland based in Edinburgh
- English-Speaking Union USA based in New York City
- English-Speaking Union of Canada based in Ottawa
- English-Speaking Union of Japan
- English-Speaking Union of Spain
There are more than 50 other International ESUs, whose websites can be found by going to , and searching for the country.
Parliamentary exchange programmes
The ESU places approximately 12 British students in the offices of members of the US Congress and the Assemblee Nationale in Paris each summer, and in turn places American and French students in the offices of MPs at Westminster. The programme has been running since 1986. Alumni include Gordon Corera, editor of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, and Paddy O'Connell, broadcaster.
- [dead link]
- "What is the ESU? – Governance" The English Speaking Union[dead link]
- ‘DARVALL, Frank Ongley’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 4 Feb 2014
- Janus: British Diplomatic Oral History Programme. Janus.lib.cam.ac.uk (1 November 1923). Retrieved on 5 November 2013.
- Former Director-General of Help the Aged to lead the English-Speaking Union. Perrettlaver.com. Retrieved on 5 November 2013.
- ::: Welcome to ESU Canada :::. Esu.ca. Retrieved on 5 November 2013.
- ESU official website
- ESU Centre for Speech and Debate website
- ESU debate teaching programme
- English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth, Registered Charity no. 273136 at the Charity Commission