A visionary dream

Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 10 September 2021

I had a dream. It is November 2021, and I have just tuned in to the Prime Minister’s daily press conference. But something in her speech sounded both different and familiar:

“I would like to share with you our national plan …. Our goal is simple: To safeguard the health of the citizens … and the economic future. … We will do everything to avoid lockdowns, which – to livelihoods, the economy and the education of our children – are destructive tools. Lockdowns are only a last resort.” (Naftali Bennett, Prime Minister of Israel, 14 August 2021)

“Everyday life is fortunately back in most places, and we have the clear expectation that we can avoid major lockdowns in the future, because we have the super-weapon in place: the vaccines.

It is voluntary whether you roll up your sleeve and get a jab in your shoulder. But I’d like to say very clearly to those of you that have yet to get vaccinated: you risk getting infected, and you risk passing those symptoms on to others.” (Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Denmark, 23 August 2021)

While we are still dealing with the virus, we must never forget we have other work to do, not least in education.

“[D]isadvantage is not destiny: We have a responsibility to every child … to deliver to them the highest quality education. [N]othing matters more than the quality of teaching to the improvement of educational outcomes for those children. …

I acknowledge that not every decision [will be] popular or easy to accept for long-time advocates of public education.

Delivering this reform agenda involves working together to confront hard truths and overcome a status quo which has accepted the underachievement of some children for far too long.” (Julia Gillard, Australian Education Minister, 27 March 2009)

To achieve our policy objectives, we need a strong economy.

“Communications and commerce are global; investment is mobile; technology is almost magical; and ambition for a better life is now universal. We earn our livelihood in peaceful competition with people all across the earth.

Profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking our world, and the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy.” (Bill Clinton, US President, 20 January 1993)

“In the long run, stability and growth can only be achieved in a functioning market economy. Effective competition, both internally and externally, is and remains the surest guarantee for the performance of an economy. We reject all protectionist tendencies at home and abroad.” (Willy Brandt, West-German Chancellor, 28 October 1969)

In proposing this national renewal, I am reaching out to the opposition and indeed to everyone in this country.

“So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.” (John F. Kennedy, US President, 20 January 1961)

It was just a dream. But it does not have to remain one.

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