Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was the embodiment of public service leadership, both through her words and her actions.
Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s head of state, died September 8, 2022, at 96 years old. Her reign spanned 70 years, starting in 1952, making her the country’s longest-serving monarch. I, along with countless others in the United Kingdom and around the world, greatly admired Her Majesty.
I was proud to serve in her name. In 2019, I was appointed by the Queen as a Member of the Order of The British Empire (MBE), as part of the United Kingdom honors system. I was awarded the title for my volunteer service with organizations like the Samaritans, an England-based charity that provides support to those in emotional distress. Being made an MBE was the greatest honor of my life.
Even though in most situations the Queen had no official authority, she still displayed a strong sense of leadership and conveyed direction for the country. She projected an authoritative yet supportive tone.
To me, she seemed like a natural speaker—clear and engaging. She offered solace and inspiration in her speeches, and she was able to connect to listeners whether on an intimate scale, such as at a hospital or ribbon-cutting ceremony, or on a larger scale, such as a national broadcast.
On her 21st birthday—just a few years before her coronation as Queen—she famously said, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”
Beginning in 1957, the Queen delivered her televised Christmas message, which was broadcast annually and offered both reflection and encouragement about the future.
When Britain was in various forms of lockdown amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Queen delivered a much-needed message of hope in her historic televised address on April 5, 2020. In it, she acknowledged the pain being endured and the sacrifices people were making during the pandemic.
“Together we are tackling this disease and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it,” she said.
The conclusion of that speech was particularly memorable to me. Referencing a line from a 1939 wartime song, “We’ll Meet Again,” she said: “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.” Such beautiful words of acknowledgement and hope.
While on the throne, Queen Elizabeth served as patron for more than 600 organizations, with the Charities Aid Foundation suggesting that her involvement in these organizations led to more than 1.4 billion pounds (more than 1.7 billion in U.S. dollars) being raised.
One of her most important roles was the formal appointment of the British prime minister. Queen Elizabeth appointed no less than 14 prime ministers, her final one being Liz Truss (who later resigned) two days before the Queen’s death.
The long-established custom of a weekly private audience with the prime minister continued throughout her reign, even taking place remotely during the pandemic. Although she had no direct power in terms of governing, many prime ministers have noted the importance of having the ear of someone who has seen British history at such an intimate level. Many leaders have praised her as an excellent listener.
Another duty of hers involved reviewing and signing bills, something she did thousands of times throughout her reign. Royal commentators have often noted that her reviews were more than just a rubber stamp. As with the prime minister meetings, her long tenure gave her a historical perspective and allowed her to provide insightful advice and observations.
The Queen was a source of inspiration. I was shocked and humbled when I received notice of my MBE honor. It felt surreal when I went to Buckingham Palace and shook hands with then-Prince Charles, who presented me with the medal. He will be coronated as King Charles III on May 6, 2023.
The achievements, words, and gracious leadership of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II are an example to us all. May she rest in peace and may God save the King!
Steve Vear, DTM is a member of the Wessex Speakers Club in Winchester, Hampshire, United Kingdom. He is a Past Division Director and current Parliamentarian for District 91, and serves as a magistrate in the U.K.
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