When no-one was watching

Some of the reaction to John Key’s resignation has been gracious.

Some, from people who don’t know the person but don’t like his politics, has not.

This tribute is one of the gracious ones. It’s from Jake Millar who found a good man who changed his life when no-one else was watching:

It was C.S. Lewis who once said “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

This is perhaps the greatest lesson I have learnt from our outgoing Prime Minister John Key, a man who changed my life by doing just that.

When I was 15 years old, on Saturday September 4, 2010, my father, Rod Miller, died in a skydiving plane crash in Fox Glacier, which killed nine people.

It was the worst plane crash New Zealand had experienced in 17 years, and it tore many people apart.

It was a rough time for New Zealand. The very same day Christchurch experienced its first major earthquake, destroying the city. And just over one month later, the West Coast was hit with another tragedy, after 29 men died in the Pike River mine disaster.

It was how Key reacted to these terrible tragedies, particularly the one closest to my heart, where I first began to truly respect him, and appreciate him as a remarkable leader.

Following the plane crash, Key took the four-hour return drive from Hokitika to Fox Glacier to visit the crash site, and pay his respects to the victims.

Key’s humanness and kindness inspired me during this difficult time, so I wrote to him as a 15-year-old, thanking him for caring, while asking him for some advice in regards to my own future.

I was amazed to receive a very personal letter back directly from the prime minister.

Not only did he address all of my points issue by issue in an extremely kind and personal way, but he also enclosed a card, saying he wanted to meet me. 

Several months later, Key, while visiting the West Coast to see the victims’ families of the Pike River mine disaster, came to our family home in Greymouth for whitebait sandwiches, a cup of tea and a chat about my future.

He didn’t publicise the visit for political profit. No media were invited. He did it out of the goodness of his heart, because he wanted to help, and because he cared.

It was the goodness of Key’s heart that inspired me to try my hardest in life, and strive to be the best version of me that I could be.

I vividly remember being inspired by the fact that Key had lost his father as a young kid, before achieving his childhood dream. I remember thinking, ‘if he could, why couldn’t I?’ . . .

The point to all of this is not that I’m something great, but that it’s all been inspired by that early spark of inspiration: when Key wrote to me.

I remember running into Key at a National Party function years after our first meeting, and he asked how my mum’s art business was going. He had only met her once, years earlier. This showed how much he truly cared.

Whether you loved or hated his politics, as prime minister, Key was a good man. He had integrity. He cared about the people he represented. He did the right thing, even when no one was watching. . . 

The longer I observe and participate in politics the more I see good people doing their best to do good for the country and their people.

The outgoing PM was one of these, his presumptive successor, Bill English is the same, whether or not anyone is watching.

P.S. – you can read more about Jake Millar here.

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