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Thu, 25 July 2024

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My visit to Parliament gave me a vibrant lesson in the value of democracy

3 min read

Yesterday was a day I will long remember. 

I was thrilled to learn I was invited by MP Ian Paisley Jr to visit the House Of Commons. Now for me, as a former sixth grade teacher in Spanish Harlem, New York City, this was a momentous event.

In 1972, it was one thing trying to teach 12 and 13 year old New York City students about the wonder and uniqueness of England’s Parliamentary system  and it’s quite another actually walking down the hallowed halls of this living, breathing and ever so vibrant hall of democracy.

I touched marble stones that are 1000 years old. I sat silently while The Conservative party and Labour party went back and forth on a number of issues. But always, and I stress always, with civility and respect.

Living in America and having visited Washington DC, it was a startling reminder that democracy doesn’t have to be polarizing and can actually be civil, even among parties who deeply  disagreed with each other.

As we walk down the streets and byways of England and marvel at the astonishing architecture and history, we may not be realize that at the very same time, the members of Parliament, men and women, daily gather to do the people’s business. Taxes. The economy. The military. Social issues and so on.

Dictatorships are easy. One person simply says they want something done, and it gets done. Simple.

Democracy on the other hand, is hard. There are competing views. Sometimes polarizing views. Sometimes there are agreements, often there are big disagreements. But democracy, for all its messiness, is the only hope for mankind (and womankind, of course). 

The more I’ve learned through my university studies about the history of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales the more fascinated I became with how these different peoples, with different languages and different accents  somehow were able to gather their resources and learned to live and work together under a very real United Kingdom.

The most amazing thing to me, as an outsider, is how these different countries, with long histories of being ruled by monarchies were able to segway into democracies…and yet hold on to the tradition, the pomp and the circumstance of the monarchies.

I met various members of Parliament. I saw and actually touched pieces of history that only existed in books. I heard stories of various kings and queens that had been crowned at the Halls, played tennis at the Halls (!!!) and yes, where some had been convicted of various crimes and beheaded.

This has meant the world to me.

Thank you to MP Ian Paisley Jr (whose father Ian Paisley, is a legend.). 

Thank you one and all.

I am humbled.

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