Allan Little’s reporting career took him all over the world; from the local radio newsroom at Radio Solent in Southampton to the deserts of Iraq to the war shattered streets of Rwanda. Along the way he reported on the breakup of Yugoslavia, Boris Yeltsin’s Russia, and led the BBC’s coverage of the Scottish Independence Referendum. From Paris, to Johannesburg to Moscow, he has reported on world changing events from the front line; presented the Today programme on Radio 4 and today is presented with an Honorary Doctorate from Bournemouth University.
“It’s great to be in Bournemouth because I owe this part of England quite a lot. I started my career in journalism in Southampton and I used to come to Bournemouth and Poole as a young local reporter, learning my trade. I learned a lot here; I learned the basics of the craft that I then spent my life in so it’s thrilling to be back – I’m delighted.”
His message to students graduating today is inspiring, stirring and thought provoking.
“What you learn is that education is more than the accumulation of knowledge. Education is about acquiring the habit and condition of independent thought- the idea of the autonomous mind which enables you to interrogate the world, to scrutinise the world and to make judgements about what is going on in the world.”
A BBC foreign correspondent with 33 years’ experience, Allan won a host of industry awards throughout his career including a Gold Sony Radio Award as Reporter of the Year and an Amnesty International Reporter of the Year Award. But his career journey started with less ambitious motives…
“Being a foreign correspondent seemed to me to be a way of indefinitely extending your adolescence without having to get a real job. It was hard work but it didn’t feel like working, it felt like being paid to go on adventures in foreign and exotic parts of the world that you learn an enormous amount from.”
Ultimately, a lifetime travelling to some of the world’s most dangerous places has given Allan a unique perspective.
“Never grow cynical of the idea of the idea of the autonomous mind – no matter how old you get. Never give up the idealism of your youth and the idea that your generation will make the world a better place. My advice to students graduating today would be never lose sight of that ideal. Never grow cynical about the youthful challenge and the youthful potential of independent thought, stay Independent, stay autonomous, cherish that heritage, cherish what you’ve had here over the last three years or so and never grow tired and cynical of it, no matter how old you get.”