Thursday, August 18, 2005

In memory of Lange

This week the whole country (New Zealand, if you hadn't been paying attention) paid homage to a great leader, admired even by those who disagreed with his politics.

David Lange (1942 - 2005) was most often remembered as a great storyteller with the common touch. And there lies the man's greatness - stories that reach the heart of everyone.

As a child growing up through the Lange years, I didn't understand much of the politics happening, but I do remember the jovial, literally larger-than-life character he was. Yet, as with so many comedians, his humour came from suffering.

In an interview earlier this week on Campbell Live, Lange's successor Geoffrey Palmer pointed out the severe health problems lived with during his time as Prime Minister. Illness can make you want sympathy, or can help you offer it.

Perhaps that was the best thing about Lange. Sympathy. Or maybe I'm talking about empathy. Don't know. But it was real, and it began long before his time as PM. Maybe it began in his law practice in the Far North and South Auckland, when he would take on the cases no-one else wanted to take on; the people who couldn't necessarily pay their way.

Probably the best part about when someone famous dies is the concentrated amount of information you get in the media coverage. It sounds morbid, but I've really enjoyed the interviews with Lange's colleagues (all looking very old now!) as they try to summarise what made the great man great, the popular man popular.

Update: Fantastic tribute in the NZ Herald from Jim Hopkins, another man who mixes wit with wisdom on a regular basis. Although admittedly, often more of the former.


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