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03-07-2006


Harvey Thomas Speaks at Convocation

 


Williamsburg, Ky.-Students at University of the Cumberlands heard a story of faith, love and hope as Harvey Thomas shared his life’s meandering journey—a near-death experience, reconciliation, and a surprising friendship.

Thomas, an international public relations consultant from Herts, England, was well known as the press and public relations coordinator for Lady Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain.

 


During Thomas’ convocation speech, he spoke about how his Christian faith and a decision he made at a 1998 conference on reconciliation in Louisville, Ky., began a journey which later found him having breakfast at his home with his wife, two daughters and the man who tried to take his life fourteen years earlier.

The tragic, near-death incident occurred while attending a business conference with Lady Thatcher. Around 2:30 a.m. a bomb went off just five feet below his hotel bed. After being launched through the hotel’s roof, Thomas came to rest, wearing only a t-shirt, on a beam, and was pinned under weighted rubble.

"It was very cold in nothing but a t-shirt," Thomas said, "There was water running over me and I sounded like a dog barking as I tried to yell for help with my upper lip over my lower lip in an a attempt to keep from drowning."

The 1998 conference’s topic was reconciliation, which brought back the memories of Thomas’ night and of the reality of losing five of his friends. Patrick McGee, an IRA terrorist, was serving five consecutive life sentences for the bombing.

"I made a statement that I would write a letter to Patrick McGee and forgive him for what he had done," Thomas said.

He later put the statement to action as he wrote McGee.

"Because I am a Christian I forgive you," said Thomas.

Later, McGee was pardoned by Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain. After McGee’s release, Thomas volunteered to meet with him and discuss the events which nearly cost him his life and to share some insight on how he could forgive him.

After hours of discussion, the two men understood more about each other and decided to keep in touch. McGee eventually started appearing with Thomas to speak at conferences, which presented the opportunity for Thomas to invite McGee to his home for breakfast.

"After a few minutes of sitting at the breakfast table with my wife and two daughters, McGee became emotional about what he had done and how it could have effected my family," Thomas said, "My youngest daughter, who was born two years after the tragic event in 1984, mentioned to McGee how she wouldn't be here if his bomb would have killed me."

Since then, McGee has become a friend of the family and has turned against terrorism and violence.

Thomas’ message of reconciliation has had a profound affect on Rachel Worley, a freshman at University of the Cumberlands.

“It makes you realize the importance of forgiveness,” Worley said. “After [convocation], a friend from high school asked to make things right between us.”

University of the Cumberlands is in its 117th year of operation. Cumberlands offers four undergraduate degrees in 37 major fields of study, 30 minors and nine pre-professional programs, as well as online and accelerated, non-traditional programs for adults.