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Xtra - Pat's Union debate

Posted on 6 March 2014  - 10:45

Pat Jennings joined an illustrious roll call of the great and the good when he spoke at the renowned Oxford Union Society recently.

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Indeed, he became the second former Spurs player to feature in the debating chamber following Paul Gascoigne in the Eighties.  Lord Sugar also spoke there in 1997.

Our legendary Northern Ireland international goalkeeper was invited to talk to the students about his domestic and international career in general plus his current role as our goalkeeping consultant. His host was a Spurs fan who is a Union member.

The Oxford Union is a highly-regarded debating society which was founded in 1823 and is based in the University city.  It enjoys a worldwide reputation and has proved a valuable training ground for many future politicians from the UK and abroad.

Notable past presidents include Herbert Henry Asquith, Tariq Ali, Hilaire Belloc, Tony Benn, Benazir Bhutto, John Buchan, Robin Day, Michael Foot, William Gladstone, William Hague, Michael Heseltine, Edward Heath, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Thorpe...and Gyles Brandreth.

It is independent of the university and has its own purpose-built debating chamber with an historic Old Library best known for Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.

Past speakers include the Dalai Lama, Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, Hamid Karzai, Gerry Adams, Stephen Fry, Robert Kennedy, Judi Dench, Frankie Howerd, Clint Eastwood, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp...and Kermit the Frog!

Debating in these austere surroundings takes two forms.  Competitive debating where Oxford take on other societies - and chamber debating with invited guests speaking in a less formalised manner where audience engagement is encouraged.

Pat participated in the latter format, talking for about 30 minutes and then taking part in a question-and-answer session.

“It was an honour; a lovely thing to do,” says Pat.  “I didn’t know what to expect but received a warm welcome and enjoyed what is a unique experience from start to finish.  It was so different from the norm in terms of the football-related things that I am often involved in.

“The whole environment has such an unbelievable history that you immediately feel part of something special. And when you see the names on the walls of some of the previous speakers it brings it home to you that it is a massive honour just to be involved.

“It was certainly something that I will never forget.”