Oxford is a fairytale dream come true. I slept in a castle, saw the wedding dress of a princess-to-be, and, frequently, ate dinner with a knight. It was a bit of an adjustment returning to the "simple life" in Norman.
This summer was the University of Oklahoma College of Law's 37th trip to Oxford University in Oxford, England. For all 37 of those years, Professor Sir David Yardley, chairman emeritus, Commission for Local Administration in England, former chief ombudsman for England and Wales, and all things noble and honorable, has been a part of the program as a visiting lecturer. This was his last summer with OU's Law Program at Oxford, but that did not prevent him from sharing his wisdom, stories, and presence with our group.
One evening, I had the pleasure of dining with Sir David in Brasenose College Hall. As we chatted over our roast lamb and potatoes, it began to sink in…I am eating dinner with a real knight.
Star-struck, I listened as he recalled what life was like in England during the Second World War and how much he admired King George VI for staying in London after Buckingham Palace was bombed. It was fascinating to hear from a first-hand observer what life was like on the other side of the pond.
The Oxford Program will dearly miss Sir David, his stories, and his lecture on "The Importance of the Two Types of Research," but the 2011 group was privileged to join him in his final year with the American Law Program.
The second part of my fairytale trip took place in London, about an hour southeast of Oxford. Last spring, my fellow section mate and I arose before the sun, sipped tea and ate scones, while watching the Royal Wedding live on television. This experience was completed when I toured Buckingham Palace and saw The Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress on display. After touring the state rooms of Buckingham Palace, filled with Rembrandts, Van Dycks, and gifts from countries all over the world, I made my way into the elaborate garnet and gold-colored ballroom.
After one step through the doorway, I saw it.
In the center of the room on a dimly-lit pedestal was the dress. The hand-sewn lacework and fine details one could not see clearly on television were stunning. The four boys who had the pleasure of joining me on this adventure learned all about the language of flowers in the Duchess' bouquet. They were thrilled to have this new knowledge!
After crossing "See Kate's Dress" off my bucket list, the Churchill War Rooms were next. The War Rooms are an underground bunker in London where the Prime Minister and Cabinet Members took refuge from bombs and planned the English strategy for WWII.
Walking down the steps into the bunker was like walking back in time. The wall-sized maps are still fastened with colored pins and strings representing the German, English, and American troops' locations. The offices and bunk rooms still contain original furniture and doors labeled "Prime Minister" and "Prime Minister's Wife."
Even deeper is the Churchill Museum. It tells the story of a colorful man, though sometimes stubborn or demanding, who served his country and the world, for many years. The most surprising part of Churchill's life was what he did after retiring from political service. The man, who had courage enough for the entire world, was a talented oil painter and many of his landscapes and doodles were on display in the museum.
Sir Winston Churchill said, "[t]he farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see." Viewing a piece of recent history belonging to the next generation of monarchs, hearing the stories of Sir David, and walking through the very rooms Sir Winston Churchill used to pace, allowed me to look backward in time.
The trip to Oxford was more than a vacation abroad, it was an opportunity to step back and view my place in time and to decide what type of impact I will make on the world.