Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 - How Will You be Remembered?

The other day I was chatting with some friends when one commented that "John Howard was the worst Prime Minister in Australia's history!" Now, as my friends know, I am pretty a-political - I dislike equally all politicians and political parties - but I was amazed. I was even more amazed to find myself defending Howard and commenting that a good case can be made for him being one of Australia's best Prime Ministers. When I pressed my friend to explain her comment, the emphasis was on Howard getting Australia involved in Iraq and Afghanistan - for both of which there is a very strong argument that Australia should never have got involved - she had forgotten his introduction of the GST (which, prior to the election, he had promised would never be introduced) which has helped transform the Australian economy. She had forgotten his strong leadership regarding gun control following the Port Arthur Massacre. And so on. All she remembered was the invasions - the negatives.

But this got me thinking. How do we remember people and how will we (and they) be remembered at the end of 2012?

My mind wandered to one of my more pleasant brushes with fame. Back in 1977 I was visiting Sydney and staying at the Boulevard Hotel. Together with a few friends, on the Saturday, I went to Doyles Restaurant in Rose Bay - then a justifiably famous and popular seafood restaurant. During the meal we became conscious that the folk music singer, Burl Ives, was also lunching there - in fact he was only 1 table away. Lunch went on and eventually the crowd thinned until there was only Burl Ives and his party as well as me and my friends present. One of Doyles staff came and spoke with the great man and, after a few minutes, left before returning with a guitar. For the next 30 or so minutes, Burl Ives entertained us with an impromptu concert. It was great. A little later, after returning to my hotel. I got in an elevator to again find myself face-to-face with Burl Ives. We chatted and I was impressed with his friendliness and obvious enjoyment from engaging with his public. I'll bet that Burl Ives never remembered meeting me, but 35 years later I still remember meeting him!

When I think back over recent years I am sure that people have mixed memories of me. I certainly don't think there would be agreement that accorded with how I would like to be remembered. And those memories significantly impact on how these people think of and interact with me today.

Its like our current crop of political leaders. My view of the Prime Minister, based on her performance in 2011, is that of an ambitious, possibly Machiavellian, person who is prepared to compromise at times in order to get legislation passed - 2011, despite there being a "hung" parliament, saw an almost record number of pieces of legislation passed. Based on her past performance, I suspect a lot more legislation will pass this year. My view of the Leader of the Opposition, is that of an equally ambitious, possibly Machiavellian, person who has a limited vocabulary - he knows how to say "No!" Based on his past performance I suspect we will see a continuation of this in 2012.

My perceptions may be quite wrong - I've never met either of them. They may both be very nice, approachable, highly principled people who are very positive and strong on engagement. Both may act quite differently this year. But my views are based on what I've seen and heard up to the end of 2011.

I don't make New Year's Resolutions, but thinking about all of this has given me a drive to be a bit different this year. At the end of 2012 I'd like to find that there was a pretty good agreement between the way I think of myself and the way others think of me. And that will mean I have to make some behaviour changes.

At the end of 2012, how will you be remembered? What are you going to do in order to bring a greater consistency between the way you see yourself and how others see you?

I'd love to know your views. Your comments are welcomed.

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