We must master England

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Here’s my speech from the 2013 Life Changers Awards.

Bow Oni. By the way, my Yoruba name is Oluwadara. And Ebo name is Oniya Kachi. You can call me Olu.

I am delighted to be here with you. I want to thank Sheri for inviting me to speak today. Tonight is the result of Sheri and her team’s hard work, leadership and dedication. They want to make a positive difference in the lives of the disadvantaged. I am inspired by them. So I want to pay tribute to them for giving power to the powerless. Let us give them a huge round of applause.

Before I begin my talk, I would like to share a quote with you from Mother Teresa which I believe sums up not only my speech, but also the theme of today. She said “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” It is a mantra that I follow everyday in my own life, and I am sure you do too.

Today I would like to share with you my journey from India to the UK. You’re going to hear how working non-stop and becoming a community champion enabled me to fulfil my dream of becoming a multi-millionaire – while at the same time making a positive difference in the lives of others.

My story began 7,000 kilometres away from here in India, where I grew up the youngest of 11 children and went to state schools in Delhi. During my summers as a child, I would stay at my sister’s house. Her place had no bathroom, no running water and one electric light – when it worked! I remember collecting five buckets of buffalo dung everyday, which I’d make into pancakes and we would use for fuel.

Through hard work at school, I won entry to the Indian Institute of Technology, one of the world’s leading engineering universities. After graduation in 1986, I was lucky to go to New York on a scholarship for Masters in engineering.

But my excitement of flying for the first time was very short-lived. The second I stepped off the plane I dropped to the bottom of society. For the first time in my life, I was a fish out of water: a different culture, a different language and a different socio-economic level. I was dirt poor.

I remember telling myself that I had not come to New York to settle at the bottom of society.

I would work day and night, embrace my new community and rest only after reaching to the top.

After overcoming several setbacks, including recovering from a brain haemorrhage in 1988, I earned an MBA in 1994 from University of California, Los Angeles. I was awarded the Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, the highest honour given to any student.

When I was not studying or working overtime, I would use my time to volunteer in my community as a fire-fighter and paramedic. As a result, I made several friends from whom I learned how to deal with my funny accent. By the way, I never had any accent problem in India!

After MBA, I joined Goldman Sachs on Wall Street – btw, I was interviewed 31 times before I got that job!

After jumping over hurdles one by one, I launched Global Markets Consultants, a management consulting firm, in London and New York in 2002 and have been its CEO since then.

I’m proud to say that I’ve created hundreds of UK jobs.

Despite the business success, my love for my community has only grown deeper. I continue to be passionate about my community in three ways. First, I play an active role. I serve as a Magistrate at Stratford Court, a Patron of Tayo Situ Foundation and a Trustee for Connection at St Martins homeless charity. I love these opportunities as they help me not only strengthen my community but also share experiences with diverse people.

Second, I participate in many challenging activities and have raised more than £150,000 for charity. For example, I recently helped raise £25,000 for a charity helping young people.

Third, I travel globally to learn about different communities. I’ve been to more than 75 countries and all 7 continents. Recently, I visited Ghana, where I tasted the most delicious mangos, and Nigeria where I enjoyed Indo Me – the best noodles in the world.

As you can see, you and I have shared the same journey by travelling thousands of miles to England with a dream to reach for the stars and believing that our background would be no barrier to our success. I am proud of all of you for taking this bold step. This journey has been possible because of your courage, resilience and leadership.

We must recognise and celebrate what each one of us has achieved so far. We have worked hard to pass lots of tests, earn degrees to become qualified as per the UK standards. We are talented and have mastered a new language and a new culture and a new socio economic level.

But our dreams have not yet been fully realised despite our nonstop efforts. We find ourselves in a world that is opposite to the world we had in our dreams. The famous African writer and educator Chinua Achebe wrote ‘if you don’t like my story, write your own.’ And so, ask yourself today: do you like your story? Are you happy with where you are in the UK? Or do you want to write or re-write your own story?

Because if we really want to give our children the role models and opportunities they deserve – and if we want to reach to the top, we must write our own stories. So what should we do? Let me share with you three secrets that will make us master of our destiny:

First – we must master England. You can do it. I have seen for myself that each one of you possess a vibrant mix of talent, energy and hope. To start with, you can become College Governors, run the London Marathon or become Magistrates. Let us challenge ourselves to become leaders at the top in England now, the way we were back in our home country. I believe that at least 50 people in this room are talented enough to be members of parliament in England.

Second – Let us make unity our strength. Let us support each other with the fundamental belief that out of many, we can still pursue our own individual dreams and also come together as one family, united by common heritage and journey.

Third – mutual recognition. How many of us here have nominated someone for a UK honour?

That is an MBE, OBE or CBE. We simply need to start applying for these awards for each other to get the recognition we deserve. I’ve got my OBE, but I can tell you that many of you in this room deserve this award more than me. Do you want to get this award? If yes, contact me!

I know there are people in this room just waiting for their chance to fulfil their dreams, but they need an opportunity. I can offer top leadership opportunities in politics right now. We’ve set up a new political party, the All People’s Party. I ask you: do you want to see change in your community; do you want to be the voice of your community; and do you want to leader of your community?

If yes, I can give you this opportunity now. I can provide you the campaign resources. Just imagine, you can be councillors in 2014 or members of parliament in 2015 or a prime minister in 2030! And Ladies and Gentlemen, that is my dream.

Thank you very much

Written by Prem Goyal