Now you are students but you must prepare to lead

20 September 2018

This opinion article by Jennifer Westacott was published in Herald Sun on 20 September 2018.

I am bewildered by what has played out in our national capital. We have to rise above any attempts to entrench a small-minded political culture, characterised by a decade of retribution and revenge, irrespective of which political party is in power. 

We have to do better than a system, whether at a state or federal level, that encourages our leaders to take the do-nothing route because doing something would be too controversial. 

So, please, please don't throw your hands up in dismay and consider joining the "Why Bother Movement". Why bother voting, why bother having a say, why bother being informed? 

Resist taking the easy option. 

Instead, be empowered. Have a voice. Be the positive force the nation can rely on. I urge you to live lives of purpose. 

Purpose at work is not just about position. It's about using authority and influence to make positive change to get things done. 

Think about what you want to influence and the change you want to bring about. Consider not only what you want to achieve but how you will do it. 

We should never forget the responsibility we have to leave Australia in better shape than we found it for the next generation. 

I want you to live in an Australia that is united, not divided. One country. The divisions that exist, not too far from the surface, must end. The division between the regions and cities, the division between small and big businesses and the division between religions. 

We must call out those on the extreme, devoid of goodwill, who seek to isolate one ethnic group from the rest and those who attempt to fan division by seeking to resurrect the archaic notion of classes. I want you to live in a country with one society shared by all, whether you are an asylum seeker, the grandchild of post-war migrants, an indigenous Australian or the descendants of First Fleeters. 

One country where we all belong, a country that values inclusion, equality, tolerance and diversity. A country that embraces freedom, the rule of law, and fairness through opportunity. 

Be a problem solver, not a blamer. Be a risk taker. Don't be 

afraid to unleash your imagination and your inner creativity. To borrow from House of Cards, remember imagination is its own form of courage. Don't surrender to orthodoxies. Be entrepreneurial. 

Who would have thought that the frustration of not being able to get a taxi in Paris on a snowy evening would be the spark that led to Uber? Or how the idea of shipping rental DVDs in the mail to customers would become Netflix? 

We should never be ashamed to aspire to be a wealthy society because there are very few things you can do in poor societies. 

Growth and opportunities are intrinsically linked. 

In every walk of your life, persist. Never let others define what is possible - impossible is a word humans use all too often. 

Where would we be if J.K. Rowling, William Golding and Dr Seuss hadn't ignored repeated rejection letters? Or if Michael Jordan didn't overcome the embarrassment of failing to make his varsity basketball team. Or Lady Gaga didn't pick herself up after being dropped from her first record label. 

Be part of your local community whether it is through a community organisation, a political party, or being really active in your workplace. I encourage you to be participants, not observers. 

Be a constant learner and relish in the quest for knowledge. 

Cultivate the gift of curiosity. The inquiring, questioning mind is the most powerful tool any organisation or team can have. 

Be students of history. I worry that we're losing the art of understanding history and how it shapes our present. Be the person who loves to understand things at their deepest level. 

Be the generation that rises above resentment, bitterness, envy, retribution and revenge. It is such a destructive way to live your life. 

I really urge you to be respectful and courteous. It will serve you better than almost any qualification you will gain. Be the person who others come to for help and advice. Be the person whom others trust to confide in when something is wrong. Leaders with enduring success are the people who are respectful, courteous, inquiring and good listeners. 

Be the generation that embraces positivity. Be the generation that values compassion and inclusion. 

Be the generation of ambition, of aspiration, and you will be the greatest generation that has ever lived.


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