Adnan Raja 2020


Adnan Raja speaking at the One Voice Annual Dinner 2020

“Good evening everyone. I can’t tell you what an honour it is to be speaking here at the One Voice Annual Dinner to such an esteemed audience. Truth be told, this feels a bit like a homecoming for me. Not just because I get a break from my studies, but also because I think back to the first One Voice Annual Dinner I attended. I look at the person I was then and the person I am now and I think, wow – what an incredible journey. During those four years I have interviewed at Oxford University – albeit unsuccessfully; about to conclude my studies at LSE on the world’s most prestigious undergraduate political science programme and I interned at J.P. Morgan. In the brief time that I have I want to speak to about the journey I have been on, who supported me during that time, and the insights I would like to pass on to the young people in the audience and their parents/supporter.

Fortunately for me, I have always had some level of ambition in me. My competitive streak meant I always wanted to be top of the class. However, the levels to which I was aiming for could never be fulfilled by myself. This is where I needed a support network to help facilitate this. The support network came in three forms: my teachers, the onevoice family, and my parents. Academically I knew that students at elite private schools would be working incredibly hard and if I wanted to compete with them I had to outwork them. I was very clear with my teachers of my ambitions and they in turn supported me academically. Without the extra work and the openness to push myself I would have never achieved the grades I did. Secondly, the One Voice family. One Voice is an organisation that welcomes ambition, and helps to grow and cultivate it. When I joined they recognised this and help set me on the path to ensure that beyond my academics I had the right skillset in order to succeed. I was given real responsibility, treated like an adult, and given every opportunity to succeed.

And finally, my parents. Being honest for a second when I told my parents of what I wanted to do in college and beyond they were very surprised. My mum wanted me to become a dentist, and my dad recognising the academic potential I had wanted me to study medicine. Nevertheless, they put their reservations aside and trusted in me. For a 15/16 year old this was huge. It was such a confidence booster knowing that my parents wholeheartedly supported my ambitions despite the reservations they had. It is that vote of confidence they had in me that spurred me on and has kept me going since. And for that I am incredibly grateful.

This brings me onto my first take-home message. To the parents: trust in your children’s ambitions. This town has so much potential and is time we start utilising it. I have sat in classes with kids from Eton, Harrow, and other elite schools and deserved to be there just as much as they did. This is true of all young people from Blackburn. The opportunities are there for our kids, we just have to facilitate it happening.

And to the young people in the audience –  think boldly. be ambitious. work hard. With the support network One Voice has built, coupled with dedication to your studies, there is no reason why next year and years to come a WEG/Scout/EEB shouldn’t be stood on this stage telling you all how they managed to get into Cambridge, LSE or other elite institutions/professions.

It is firmly my intention to return to Blackburn in the future, once I have achieved what I set out to, and begin to give back to the community that helped me thrive. This should be the model we encourage our children to follow – achieve big, take all the world has to offer, and come back and invest in the next generation.”

Adnan Raja was speaking at the One Voice Annual Dinner 2020, at the Windsor Suite, king George’s Hall, Blackburn.