To the entire English-Speaking Union Community,
I write today to wish you a happy and healthy New Year and every success in 2022.
I would have liked to deliver this message in-person, at the long-anticipated Gala in the presence of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, scheduled for January 12, 2022, at the Cosmopolitan Club. Regrettably, the resurgent Omicron variant forced our hand to postpone the event.
Her Royal Highness' willingness to reschedule her visit in order to be with us in the near future is an affirmation of the role the ESU has played for over a century in advancing international understanding and friendship through the use of the English language. It is a recognition of the ESU's contributions to society and the people who have given of themselves to make our organization strong and influential.
Despite our hopes, 2021 was neither normal nor easy. But it turned into a year of recovery and adaptation, as the challenges of the persistent pandemic inspired a series of innovations that enabled the English-Speaking Union not only to continue but expand its programs and impact.
From our online Happy Hour events and English classes to the virtual National Shakespeare Competition and Annual General Conference, the ESU's embrace of the new digital tools expanded access to our programs and allowed us to reach more members and students across the country. This is the silver lining to the Covid cloud. And as we gradually bring back in-person programs, we will continue our online offerings as they have already attracted a strong following.
2021 saw another notable change. At the end of his six-year term, H.E. Dr. Paul Beresford-Hill CBE stepped down from his position as Chairman of the English-Speaking Union. As the new Chairman of the English-Speaking Union, I would like to thank my fellow Members of the Board of Directors for entrusting me with this responsibility and I pledge to do my utmost as Chairman to warrant this trust.
I also thank Dr. Paul Beresford-Hill for his steady and wise leadership over the past six years. His legacy is a stronger ESU with a renewed focus on the fundamental strengths of our organization – our mission, our members and our programs. I'm personally indebted to Paul – his work has made my task easier.
And so to the future.
Over the next years, we will continue to build on the strengths of our organization.
We will be laser-focused on supporting our Branches and the programs that engage and inspire our members, such as the Evelyn Wrench Speaker Series and the ESU National Shakespeare Competition. Even though we had superb online National Wrench Speakers like Sir Charles Spencer, we are working to relaunch the series in-person as soon as possible.
And, coming soon, is the ESU National Shakespeare Writing Program. Inspired by similar writing competitions in a couple of our Branches, this year-round programming will keep the excitement of the National Shakespeare Competition going. Consisting of both competitive and non-competitive events for middle and high schoolers, it will engage students who express their love of Shakespeare and the English language through writing rather than performance.
I see our immigrant programs – the 45-year-old English in Action and the comprehensive Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center (ARNIC) – as another path to the hearts and minds of our members, current and future, by engaging them in volunteerism and cultural exchange. In a small pilot program, we have brought the English in Action Across America program to additional Branches using a virtual format, with the potential of expanding it in-person to more locations nationally. Just as in the New York area, the volunteer members have found great reward and enjoyment in their weekly conversations with English learners from all over the world.
And next year, 2023, we will be marking the tenth anniversary of the Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center, a milestone to be celebrated. Throughout the year, a series of programs and events will recognize the legacy of Dr. Andrew Romay and the impact of the Center on thousands of new immigrants who have been empowered with the skills, language fluency, resources and networks to build successful lives in the U.S. and truly embrace their adoptive country.
One area on which, I believe, we should focus more is our international programs. With the retreat of the Covid pandemic, we will be expanding them to more teachers, students and members:
- the Secondary School Exchange that sends students across the Pond to study at a reciprocal school before starting college;
- the Luard Morse Scholarships for students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to spend a semester at a British university of their choice;
- the Teachers Learning Abroad scholarships (TLAB) for U.S. teachers to continue to grow professionally by attending courses at the University of Oxford, the University of Edinburgh, Shakespeare's Globe, and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
The loyalty and generosity of the thousands of our alumni speak to the impact of these programs. They have truly changed lives and as Chairman I pledge that they will continue to do so in the future.
What I also aspire to is more interactions with our international counterparts – the English-Speaking Unions across the globe.
In early 2020 on the generous invitation of the ESU Loire Valley in France, we were preparing for a gala and concert in Paris to mark the ESU's Centennial. Our plans were foiled by the pandemic, but I look forward to resuming the preparation of this and other such travels, such as specialized patron travel programs.
Difficult as this year has been, there is much to be grateful for. But most of all, I am grateful for your loyalty and enthusiasm and I finish by thanking all of you, our members, volunteers, teachers, students and your families. The English-Speaking Union has succeeded as a result of your talents, time and generosity.
I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2022!
Dr. E. Quinn Peeper
The English-Speaking Union of the United States