Tena koutou katoa. Nga mihi nui atawhai.
‘I’m ready for this!’ That’s how you signal to the world that you are ready for the next challenge and that you are prepared to do whatever is necessary to achieve.
These were the words of wisdom that Helen Clark shared with our Year 12 students last week as she talked to them about the challenges that she had faced in her life and how she had overcome them. One of the key difficulties facing her was the fact that she was a woman in the man’s world of politics. To be the Leader of the Opposition, you had to be forthright and very direct when stating your opinions – traits that weren’t seen as ‘becoming of a woman’. But, she persisted and, 18 years after entering parliament, she became New Zealand’s second woman Prime Minister and held that role for three terms of government.
Ms Clark encouraged our students to ensure that they got the best education that they could – be it in universities, polytechs or vocational trades. This is the best preparation that they could have for the many opportunities that will come their way when they leave secondary school.
One current challenge that she did offer to our students was the ethics of the COVID vaccines. Ms Clark is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) as part of a panel that gives advice on how to deal with this pandemic. Her challenge to the world is that the developed countries have over 4.1 billion vaccines on order but only have a population of 1.4 billion – meaning that they have over double the number of vaccines needed to vaccinate their entire population. The WHO panel recommendation is to forgo at least 1 billion of these orders to make them available for more needy countries who can’t afford them, and to prioritise the vaccination of the front line health workers in these less developed countries, so that they can safely care for their COVID patients and administer the vaccinations without fear of being infected themselves.
The systemic ethics of how pandemic vaccinations are distributed is very much an ethical dilemma for us all, and reminds us that we also have to serve those whose need is greater than our own. I hope you are ‘ready for this!’
‘May we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need. May we not be concerned about what we lack, but what good we can do for others….’ Pope Francis.