Gough Whitlam, thank you for helping us notice we were better than we thought we were, for thinking big and bold and not conforming to the small nation notion we held of ourselves.
Your death makes it impossible not to notice the different times we’re in.
Where we are constrained and shackled by fear and scaremongering, where we’ve replaced thinking big with suspicion and scepticism of new ideas.
We need more people like you. We need more people with the courage to speak up, speak out and speak loud about what we’re capable of.
Where would we be if more of us had followed your lead and were allowed to thrive instead of being dismissed as fools?
Where would we be if as a nation we allowed big ideas and dreams to guide us?
Where would we be if we were galvanised by people who knew we were capable of doing more than we thought we could do; who recognised that if we all pulled together, made room for ideas and fantasy, we would find glimmers of hope and shimmering possibility that, when provided with the space, could unfurl and create a future we didn’t know existed?
We’re capable of more than we’ve become.
We’re capable of big things; we could aspire for more – and we should.
We must. We must move beyond the shackles and constraints of our socially enforced bindings, the norms and limits we’ve placed upon ourselves that keep us smaller than we are.
We need to move beyond the limitations and assumptions of our minds and claim our greatness. Because if we don’t we’ll continue to be lulled into that place of false comfort and security. Where we think we’re safe, but we’re only safe from doing something new and different.
That place that is so familiar, it’s normal and expected. It’s the place we’re encouraged to stay – implicitly.
That place we must find the courage to resist. Or else we’ll wither and continue to shrink and be confused into thinking we’re smaller than we are.
This is why we must remind each other that the world needs us to stand up, take our place and do whatever it is we have the talent and curiosity to do. We need to ask each other: ‘What interests you?’ ‘What delights you?’
‘Where do your skills lie?’
Do they lie in the arts, in words, in your imagination?
Do they lie in a particular craft, a strand of science or way of thinking?
Do they lie in your capacity to see things that others don’t notice? Or problem solving, or sorting through complex algorithms to find meaning?
Are you gifted at staying focused long enough to follow a line of enquiry, or explore a scientific or social anomaly to unravel a strand of truth or insight no one else had the patience for?
Are you great with people or able to inspire them to think differently or think well? Are you able to connect them with their talents or motivate them to do things when it feels hard?
No matter what it is, claim it. Whatever it is, do not let the voices of irrationality and disdain disguised as ‘common sense’ fool you into thinking it’s not possible.
We need people to be bold now. We need people to be courageous. We need people to stay in touch with their own visions and claim their greatness.
And for us to do that we must encourage each other to live up to the promise we carry.
The promise of life, growth and possibility; the promise of doing something, no matter how small that will make the world better, that will enliven the human spirit and improve the human condition; that will stem from creative and expansive thinking, rather than dim witted dullness and short sightedness.
Gough Whitlam I thank you for your vision, for your capacity to think big and bold and for inspiring us to all be better than we thought we were. Thank you for reminding me, reminding us all about what is possible.