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Ambassador from USA: 'Big deal to be in the original Boston'

Just days after representatives from Boston visited the American ambassador to the UK at his London residence at his invitation he has visited the town... to listen.

Listen was the one-word advice he received from his colleague and friend President Barack Obama when he was appointed as a diplomat, and he came to Boston to listen to community and church leaders, local historians and students from Boston Grammar, High and Haven High Schools.

Matthew Barzun was on his first visit to Boston, having been raised in Lincoln, USA, just 12 miles away from Boston, Massachusetts.

He was welcomed to Boston Stump by the Rev Alyson Buxton who introduced him to the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire Toby Dennis, Matt Warman MP and Cllr Peter Bedford, Leader of Boston Borough Council.

Mr Barzun was given a guided tour of the Stump. Luke Skerritt, Boston Borough Council's museum, arts and heritage manager and Ernie Napier, chairman of the parish library at the church, spoke to Mr Barzun about the history of Boston and the Stump and its connections with the Pilgrim Fathers and their original bid to leave for the New World from near Boston and those who left Boston and the church congregation to found Boston, Massachusetts. The ambassador was interested in documents on show for him in the Cotton Chapel detailing the American connections.

Luke said he was very well informed and especially interested in Boston's Cotton congregation and the Winthrops, who sailed for the New World. He is descended from John Winthrop and his middle name is Winthrop. He was impressed that the charismatic Rev Cotton's pulpit still stands in the Stump and described the building as "spectacular".

He placed a piece in the under-construction Lego model of the Stump - insisting that he made a donation for the privilege and signed a book he had gifted. It is to be auctioned off with proceeds going towards Heritage Lottery Fundraising.

He told students from the three senior schools that it was a privilege to be in the original Boston.

"It's a big deal for me. I get to come to the original Boston," he said.

In an engaging workshop he spoke with the students about a range of issues at their suggestion, including gun ownership in America, police brutality, racism and the wars against terrorism around the world through the ages.

He took away the students' notes on all these subjects and more involving American policies at home and abroad, saying it was the 150th occasion upon which he had such discussions with young people in the UK, who now numbered 19,000.

He was presented with a large print of the Stump and Boston, produced by photographic students at Boston Grammar School, a plaque and school ties.

Churchwarden Sue Kirk presented him with a Lego model of the Stump. He has model number two, the first being in the possession of Princess Anne. He said his children would build it and it would take pride of place in the ambassador's residence.

Cllr Bedford said: "It was a privilege rubbing shoulders at the ambassador's London home with those from all over the world with the Pilgrim Fathers in common and the recognition of the important part Boston played in the development of modern-day America and how important it is that we help mark the anniversary of the Mayflower landing. We felt a bit like Pilgrim Fathers ourselves.

"And now it has been a privilege to welcome the ambassador to what he calls the original Boston - and an area with which he has some real historical connections."

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Cllr Peter Bedford welcomes the ambassador to Boston.

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The ambassador speaks to students from Boston's three senior schools.

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Ernie Napier, third from left, shows the ambassador, far right, documents from the parish library in the Cotton Chapel at the Stump. Also pictured, from left, Luke Skerritt, Cllr Bedford, MP Matt Warman.

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Churchwarden Sue Kirk presents the ambassador with his Lego model of St Botolph's.  Also pictured, the Rev Canon Alyson Buxton.

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The ambassador places a brick in the Lego model of the Stump.

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Eyes focus on a stained glass window at the Stump illustrating the Rev Cotton, the foundation of the parish library and a previous visit by an ambassador from America. From left, the Rev Canon Alyson Buxton, Luke Skerritt, ambassador Matthew Barzun, Ernie Napier and Matt Warman MP.