"Step up and act for the greater good"

Published on 12 November 2021

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Ka maumahara tonu tatou ki a ratou. We will remember them

Waitaki Councillor Kelli Williams, who served 20 years with the RNZAF, gave this speech at the Armistice Day ceremony held at the Garden of Memories in Oamaru yesterday.

"103 years ago, the end of World War 1 was declared at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. A war where soldiers endured difficult and lengthy journeys to arrive on the soils of a land that was no longer their home, to fight for all of the freedoms that we here today get to enjoy. 

How different their lives were to ours. And how drastically life has changed in those 103 years since the end of that war, the so called  ‘War to end all wars’!

I am sure that those that served and gave their lives for us, if given the opportunity to glimpse into our modern lives, would be so very proud of what they could see, and what many gave their lives up for.

But I am also sure there would be some level of shock. 

Shock at the level of disrespect for the health of our land and rivers for the benefit of wealth and profit for a few.

Shock at how the climate has deteriorated, once again to satisfy the greed of some, at the expense of us all.

Shock at how throwaway our society is, how we are overloading our landfills, and the pollution of our waterways with the waste our society creates.

And surprise at how much freedom we now have - Namely in that we are now able to ignore doing what is asked of us for the greater good of everyone else, so as to protect those that can’t protect themselves. 

This is something that they didn’t even consider that they had the choice to make all those years ago, when they were boarding the ships to set sail for war.

We need to remember that those that served didn’t necessarily want to sign up and set sail on a ship for months in cold and wet conditions, with little sustenance from their rations.

They didn’t necessarily want to leave their homes and families, in order to travel half way around the world, to kill and maim others, or be attacked themselves. Watch their friends die.

They didn’t necessarily want to leave behind those that were killed on foreign soils, to be buried in unnamed graves. 

And they most certainly didn’t want to miss out on precious years spent here at their homes, with their families, nor watch their children grow - their children being the reason that all of us are standing here today. 

But they did it. 

They did it, because they understood the calling of doing something for the greater good of all. A calling that many of us these days seem to have forgotten.

In these modern times we receive messaging from so many different sources - in contrast, at the beginning of World War I,  there was only one source to listen to, in order to get information, the Government. Sometimes in these modern times, having access to all of these other sources of messaging can become confusing. It can benefit us, but it can also muddle us. The reality is that the government messaging is all just coming from a place that has all of the information at hand. And on weighing up all of that information, they’ve made a tough decision.

When tough decisions are made at a high level there will always be those that are upset. Sometimes there will be groups of people that argue that democracy has failed. But what they are actually saying is, democracy has failed because the decision isn’t the one that they would have made. We all need to remember, that in a democracy, it is supposed to be the idea that gains the most support that prevails, not the ideas of those that try to shout the loudest. 

We are in the midst of a world wide pandemic. Too many of us are choosing to meet our high level guidance, to do what is asked of us for the greater good of everyone else, with mistrust and conspiracy theories, rather than understanding that sometimes each of us needs to make a sacrifice for the greater good of all. 

Our forefathers made a huge sacrifice for every single one of us. They gave up their freedom for all of our freedom.  Their sacrifice was immeasurable in terms of what is being asked of us over 100 years later. The sacrifice of their lives is far greater than that of asking each of the eligible members of our population to step up and be immunised by a vaccination that millions of doses have been administered world wide, and for the most part, safely. 

Sometimes every one of us needs all of us to step up and do something that perhaps takes us outside of our comfort zone, for the greater good of every body else. 

But this situation should not cause division or hatred in our society. 

As that is what led us to World War 2.  The universe has a way of reminding us about lessons that we haven’t quite learnt well enough. Let us not let that ever be the case again.

Today I pray that the more than 100,000 New Zealand soldiers that served in World War 1, fighting for the freedom of us all, Rest In Peace. 

And I also pray that we all learn from those lessons of our past, and are prepared to make tough decisions in the best interest of us all, just as our forefathers did. 

Ka maumahara tonu tatou ki a ratou. 

We must always remember them, so as to never make the same mistake again."