Founder’s Day speaker tells of moment in the national spotlight

Founder’s Day speaker tells of moment in the national spotlight

This year’s Founder’s Day guest speaker, Christos Karaolis, related how he found himself caught up in a national media storm when he was photographed playing croquet with John Prescott.

After leaving QE, Christos (OE 1995-2002), pictured second from left, completed a degree in Law at Trinity College, Oxford (where he also learned to play croquet) and then worked for a period as a political writer for the then-Deputy Prime Minister.

His first involvement in politics had come in 2001, when, as a Year 12 pupil, he volunteered to be the Labour candidate in the School’s mock election, held to coincide with that year’s General Election.

He told the congregation gathered in Chipping Barnet Parish Church for the Founder’s Day Thanksgiving Service: “In 2006, we were at our office away-day at the Deputy Prime Minister’s country residence, and when it was suggested that we play croquet, I thought, ‘why not?’

“As it turned out an eagle-eyed photographer with a long lens camera was waiting at the bottom of the garden, and well, we discovered ourselves on the front page of every newspaper the following morning, and something of a laughing stock for the nation.” The episode led to calls for Mr Prescott’s resignation.

“The lesson to learn – sometimes in life, things just don’t go as you had intended,” said Christos. “The answer, of course, is to realise that it happens to everyone and that you should bounce back as soon as you can.

“My experience in the political world was a good one and it taught me a crucial lesson for my adult life; that you can disagree, sometimes strongly, with someone for their views or beliefs, but still respect, and indeed like them, for their hard work and commitment to what they do, even if your perspective may be significantly different.”

He also spoke on the importance of friendships forged and lessons learned during his time at QE: “To this day, I still regularly see my friends from School who have gone on to have successful and diverse careers … our common thread is the School that gave us so much and put us on the road to those successes.”

And he advised the boys: “Use the advice of more experienced people – older boys, Old Elizabethans and those who you might just see as old; your teachers and parents; as I know their ideas and inspiration count for so much.”

After his brief stint working in politics, he went to law school, completed his Bar examinations and qualified as a Barrister.  He recalled how much he had gained at QE from the Young Enterprise scheme and how he applied knowledge acquired then on a daily basis in his current employment as a business strategy consultant.

For the last six years, he has also led a 15,000-member global organisation for young Cypriots. “What I love about London, our city, and indeed about QE, is that we are such a wonderfully multi-cultural society where there are so many ways that we can celebrate and share that diversity.”

After the Thanksgiving Service, rain started to fall as the Headmaster began the traditional roll call in front of the School; it continued during the afternoon. The Stanley Busby Memorial Cricket Match between an old boys’ team and the current First XI, which was revived last year, had to be abandoned. There was therefore little opportunity for OEs to enjoy their new refreshment tent. However, a good number did come along and savoured the attractions of the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s Founder’s Day Fete, including the ever-popular international food tent. The Concert Band ignored the rain and played with considerable composure, demonstrating their musical abilities despite the conditions.