Frankly Speaking!

A Benjamin Franklin House Debate Competition in collaboration with the US Embassy in London, Bloomberg and The Daughters of the American Revolution (Walter Hines Page Chapter).

On Friday 16 March 2018, 40 students from eight schools across the country joined us for Frankly Speaking 2018, the annual Benjamin Franklin House debate competition in collaboration with the US Embassy and The Daughters of the American Revolution (Walter Hines Page Chapter). Teams travelled from Coventry, London and Leeds to join us and this year the event was hosted by Bloomberg at their new London head office.

Throughout the course of the day students were challenged to address questions related to the environment, tuition fees, a second UK referendum on EU membership and space exploration.  The standard throughout the day was high, with judges impressed by the debating skills and research of the students.

Lucas Cury from Southbank International School in Westminster won first prize in the Years Ten/Eleven category: a tour of the Houses of Parliament with the Rt Hon. the Lord Cope of Berkeley – made possible with support from the DAR; Southbank International School also won the Years Ten/Eleven team debate.

The overall winning team in the Year Twelve/Thirteen category was Brampton Academy featuring debaters Melanie Nneka Onoyo and Osauewese Omoragbon. Isla Lury from Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Otley won the Year Twelve/Thirteen individual first prize, a place at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute  at Wake Forest University, North Carolina. Isla will be joining students this summer from across the US and Europe, she will explore American culture and politics and opportunities to improve civil society. Team prizes were also awarded.

All participants will be invited to a reception at Benjamin Franklin House. Many thanks to the US Embassy, Bloomberg and the DAR for their partnership, support and expertise.

Remembering Lady Joan Reid

It is with great sadness that we report the loss of Lady Joan Reid, who passed away on Friday, 10 November 2017.

She was the Benjamin Franklin House’s Historian and also served for nearly 15 years as a Governor.  Born in 1932 on a train to her doctor mother in India, she fittingly lived in fascinating places, among them, Borneo, Nigeria, Kenya, Thailand and Australia.  She supported her husband Sir Bob Reid who would serve as Chairman of Shell UK among other important posts, and their three sons, of whom – and eventually their families – she was most proud.  It required a practical nature and flexibility, which she had in abundance. During those years she taught in schools, lectured on art and culture, established charities and became a careers advisor.

It was while serving on the Council for the Royal Society of Arts in the late 1990s that she discovered Benjamin Franklin House, which the Society had taken an interest in given Franklin’s role as its first international member.  Her passion for American history, cultivated as an early Fulbright scholar at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, ensured she would become critical to the project to turn a derelict building into a must-see heritage site, recruiting Sir Bob to Chair (1999-2007) along the way.

Her exquisite curiosity and capacity for knowledge ensured that she became Britain’s leading Franklin scholar. Walter Isaacson, award winning author of Benjamin Franklin, An American Life, thanked her for “being both meticulous and unflinching in her crusade to separate facts from lore.  In doing so, she expended not only an enormous amount of intellectual energy but a huge pile of colored Post-it notes filled with suggestions.”  Benjamin Franklin’s Author in Residence, George Goodwin, noted in the dedication to his 2016 book, Benjamin Franklin in London, the “hours of insight about a man of so many talents and ambitions,” that Lady Reid provided.

She helped shape our Historical Experience which uses Franklin’s words, live performance, sound and visual projection to tell his London story.  She delivered countless lectures on Franklin and wrote many articles highlighting the way Franklin thought and influenced humanity.  She worked with clients of neighbouring homeless charity, The Connection, to interest them in writing and recording their lives as Franklin did in his Autobiography.  She was a judge for our annual young writer’s literary prize and early House science fairs.  She turned her dining room into a project office when the House was in the final stages of conservation, and she was there when the ribbon was cut by a UK Foreign Secretary and US Ambassador, to officially open the House for the first time to the public as a dynamic museum and educational facility.

During her career she had been Founder and Chair of the Unicorn School for Dyslexic Children, Chairman of Club L International, a Trustee of YMCA College and the London Mozart Players, Chairman of the British Federation of Women Graduates Charitable Foundation and so much more.  She was brilliant and generous in every way.  We will miss her greatly and are considering ways we can honour her legacy.

Obituary in The Scotsman