What a truly astounding speech.
I wish I could have been there, because to feel the atmosphere would have sent a shiver down the spine and left me mute with astonishment. But I had to watch the speech on the television, just like most other people.
It would have been something else to be there, to be in the midst of great events and the making of history. To see in person how Mr Key left the entire political leadership of the Australian nation spellbound.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone with an unkind word to say about our great leader. Even so, in the lunchroom at work where I was watching the speech things got completely out of hand. People were cheering and pumping fists with every piece of soaring Key rhetoric, and I worried for a while that the entire building might collapse from the force of the roaring and applause going though every floor of the office tower I work in.
We’ve known for a long time about Key’s power to astonish. His powerful Cicero-like oratory regularly leaves tears in the eyes of those who are fortunate enough to experience it. But the Australians got something special today.
Key only talked for a few minutes, but it was enough. My God, was it! Who didn’t feel a lump in their throat when Key talked about the people who inspired him as a boy: the men and women whose legacy shaped our PM’s determination to make a difference. Great figures in the human rights struggle of the 20th Century, like Colin Meads, and just about every other brave warrior who ever wore the black jersey. When Key spoke about his inspiration to seek political leadership, saying “I figured it would be nice to have on my CV”, I admit I choked back the tears. Such is the cynicism of politics that we seldom hear such passionate heart-felt honesty.
And by God, didn’t the Australians lap it all up! They were on their feet at the end of just about every Key sentence, cheering and clapping, stomping their feet. The only time the room went quiet was when Key gave a powerful and emotional tribute to the lobbyists who had assisted him to power, and when the only sounds to be heard were the quiet sobs of those overcome by the emotion of the moment.
You don’t often see so many people swooning at a political event, but boy that Mr Key sure can drop ‘em! I counted at least a dozen parliamentarians being carried out by staff, having been overcome by the raw power of Key’s speech.
It was too much even for Key’s counterpart, Julia Gillard. After the speech she held a joint press conference with Key, but she was a real mess and looked bewildered and distressed, as if it had just been too much for her. It was only when Key gave her a comforting Tran-Tasman hug that her emotion exploded and she wept inconsolably for ten minutes or more. Afterwards she said “Thank you, John. You are an inspiration to all Australians.” That pretty much summed up how I felt after listening to the speech. I’ve often felt deep distress after hearing John Key talk.
I am certain that Key’s speech will be one of those turning points in the history of civilisation. Like the Gettysburg Address, or the Sermon on the Mountain. One of those critical moments that determines the course of empires and nations. I wish I could have been there, though I feel privileged enough to have seen it live via the medium of television.
John Key’s catch-cry “Yes we can, but only if we have a mandate from the voters and the economic environment allows it, given the tight fiscal constraints we are under!” will ring in every ear today and in the years to come.
So let us all step forward and take the next few steps on the bold journey Key has mapped out for us, before stepping back and then stepping to the side, before stepping back again. Our destiny awaits us!