a personal tribute

Yesterday we celebrated my dad’s 70th birthday. It is right that such times are full of in-house jokes and stories that only family and close friends appreciate. In my little speech however I tried to take a different tact.

I was prompted by relatively recent experience when I was back in my home town for the launch of a book that Dad had written. The topic of the book, a history of a Trust Fund that had been a vehicle for civic leaders in Ulverstone to give back to the community, brought together a large gathering of people. Throughout the evening, the recurring comment made to me was, “Great man, your dad.”

This helped open my eyes to the man my father has been from a perspective other than that from within the immediate family, where the moment is overtaken by forever, the depth of knowledge trumps the reality of public contribution.

So in preparation for yesterday, I did what you do these days if you want to find out about someone … I googled him. One of the things I found was a transcript of a speech he delivered to a public works conference in 2002. Having spent his career in local government, he offered some perspectives on the BASICS of public service. These, I realised as I read, were things that my father had valued highly, and although rarely verbalised in the family context, he had modelled these and instilled them in me and my three siblings. As is my dad’s custom, he used an acrostic:

B stands for ‘Back yourself’. Dad has always been an outstanding problem solver, particularly when it comes to engineering or ‘handyman’ related challenges. He taught me to believe that there is always a way.

A stands for ‘Attitude’. I struggle to recall a time when people were criticised openly in our home. Dad has passed on to me the value of giving people the ‘benefit of the doubt’. In reality, everyone acts in ways that are reasonable to them. Acknowledging that for the most part people act with positive intention is a trait that I think has served me well. All behaviour is ultimately rooted in an attitude, it is therefore imperative to make sure it is our attitude that is right … behaviour will follow.

S is for ‘Simplicity’. Edward deBono famously distinguished simplistic from simplicity which he suggests lays on ‘the other side’ of complexity. For my dad, life has appeared uncomplicated. There are a few things which have been important to him … other things in life get moved around to accommodate these. I admire the simplicity that this generates.

I is for ‘Innovation’. Dad has been incredibly inventive over the years. Whether organising his workshop, renovating, making things, solving problems, he has set his mind and hands to some outstanding creative endeavours. He has taught me the value of discipline, productivity and diligence in the process.

C (and the S) stand for ‘Common Sense’. My father has always valued rationality over emotionality. His ability to dissect something objectively is a real strength. I hope that some of the ‘sense’ he has expressed through his 70 years has rubbed off on me.

Thankyou Dad for demonstrating and passing on these ‘basics’.