Hobson Article - January/February 2017

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Each year I try to get to at least one school prize giving.  Last year it was St Cuth’s.  And a fine occasion it was.  This year I was able to attend Auckland Grammar’s.  It was a wonderful morning.  Hundreds of boys crossed the stage.  Sportsmen, musicians, mathematicians and leaders; all were acknowledged.  The greatest cheer, as is the tradition, was saved for the Dux.  He emerged, blinking, to ascend the stairs, amid tumultuous applause.

Sitting there, looking out to a sea of 2,500 young men, the overwhelming impression was of enormous potential; of coiled energy ready to spring into the world.   It seems only a short time ago that I sat in those stalls with my mates.  The objective fact, however, is that was 28 years ago.  In that period, many of my cohort have thrived in the professions, in the arts and in business.  Some, sadly, have died.  Some have been in jail. 

The word ‘success’ was mentioned frequently that morning.  As we know, it comes in many forms.  From time to time as a Member of Parliament I’m obliged to pass on some words of wisdom to groups of young people.  I find the question of how we measure success in life an interesting topic. 

To me, a successful life has three elements.  First and foremost, is our conduct in the essential family relationships of life: being a good daughter, son, parent, sister, uncle etc.   No society can function without most people taking care of their loved ones.

Then we tend to measure success in terms of career.  For most girls and boys at local schools that means going to university and striving to do as well as they can in whatever profession they choose.  Many, quite rightly, expect that they’ll do several things throughout their working lives.

But there’s a third element to a successful life.  That is the contribution we make to the community – local, national or beyond.  Of course, most of us serve the community in our working lives, as nurses, teachers, house builders or in whatever role we’ve taken up.  Business, in its infinite variety, is a pure form of service – people only stay in business if they give their customers what they want, which is a good place to start.

But most Kiwis find some way to contribute to their local community beyond their professional capacity – whether it’s fundraising for Plunket, umpiring kids cricket, volunteering at the CAB, serving on the committee of the local historical society or a cultural group.  That activity is the glue that holds our communities together.

I find it useful to think of a successful life in those terms. The men and women on school boards are usually fine examples of such people.  Those roles take an extraordinary amount of time and commitment.  I was able to catch up with a room full of them recently when Education Minister Hekia Parata visited the electorate.  There probably wasn’t the time for all of them to get everything off their chest, but the passion they had for their schools was palpable. 

I want to finish my last Hobson article for the year by thanking them for their hard work, and to wish you all a safe and happy break over the Christmas and New Year period.