A race equality campaigner who rose from humble beginnings on a Leicester council estate to sit in the House of Lords has been honoured by the University of Leicester.
A mainstay of The Powerlist, which brings together professional role models for young people of African and African Caribbean heritage in the UK, Simon Woolley is a passionate advocate for racial equality, who has enjoyed a decorated career in British politics
A Crossbench member in the House of Lords, Lord Woolley is the founder of Operation Black Vote – an initiative dedicated to addressing the democratic deficit. Using his prominence to raise awareness of race inequalities, Simon has spread awareness of inequalities in health, education and employment.
Today (Tuesday 18 July), the University of Leicester formally recognised Lord Woolley’s achievements, by awarding him an Honorary Doctorate of Laws during a graduation ceremony, held at De Montfort Hall.
After accepting his doctorate, Lord Woolley gave a passionate speech to the hundreds of new Leicester graduates present at the ceremony.
A visibly emotional Lord Woolley said: “I am a little overwhelmed. It gives me immense pride, honour and gratitude to bestowed such an honour. Above all, with it being here, in Leicester.
“I was made in Leicester, on the St Matthew’s estate, to be precise. In the 1960s when racism was rife. The skinheads used to prowl the streets looking for black and brown people to beat up. Leicester made me. Sometimes we had to physically fight those skinheads who tried to terrorise us.”
Lord Woolley told the graduates: “Today is a significant day in your lives. Martin Luther King said intelligence is not enough, true education is about having intelligence and character. This university has bestowed both on you.
“We [the University and I] are not asking for your success, we’re demanding it. Our society demands it.
“Feel the presence of your talent, feel your ambition of what you might do, made in Leicester.”
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, said: “Lord Woolley’s life story is worthy of a movie script, such has been his journey from humble beginnings here in Leicester to his role in politics and advocating for racial equality.
“He’s a true Citizen of Change and his impact cannot be underestimated – having opened doors for so many people who might have felt politics is not for them.
“I would like to congratulate Lord Woolley on his honorary award and thank him for attending our graduation ceremony, where he was able to inspire our new generation of graduates.”