25 April 2013, Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Anzac Day 2010 was and today, Anzac Day 2013, will be, very important days in my life. I would like to briefly share with you why.
A few days before Anzac Day 2010 I made a pilgrimage with my mother. The two of us flew to Singapore, then drove about a third of the way up the Malaysian peninsula, inland from Malacca.
There, just north of the town of Gemas, is a road bridge over the Gemencheh river. The road and bridge are surrounded on both sides by thick jungle. As you approach the bridge from the south, to the left is a rubber tree plantation. And, about 200 metres before the bridge, there is a left hand bend in the road with an embankment that slopes down to meet the road.
It was at that very spot at about 5.00 pm on 14 January 1942 that my grandfather, Sergeant Athol Nagle from the 2nd/30th battalion of the Australian Imperial Force, was killed by japanese troops.
My grandfather was the first soldier in Malaya to fall for Australia.
My mother never knew her father. She was born a little over three months after his death.
April 2010 was the first time that my mother had visited the site where her father was killed. We spent several hours walking, under and over the bridge, up and down the road. We took many photos of the area although we did not need to take any for ourselves –- the site will be forever a very clear picture in the minds of each of us.
Afterwards, we returned to Singapore where we attended the Anzac Day dawn service at the Kranji war cemetery. I have not yet been to a dawn service at Gallipoli, but to all of the Australians, New Zealanders and British here today, i can tell you that the Kranji dawn service is also an incredibly moving experience that you will never forget.
With the other Australians who were there to honour members of their own families, we laid a wreath on the memorial to soldiers from Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain who died in the service of their country, either on the Malaya peninsula or in Singapore.
Of special note to me was that, as part of the official service that day, a wreath was also laid on the memorial by a senior military officer from Japan. That was a very poignant moment indeed.
So, Anzac Day 2010 was, obviously and naturally, a very emotional day for my mother and for me.
That brings me to today’s Anzac Day service.
All of us here today are at the Harvard Business School because we are students on the Advanced Management Programme. All of us, too, are part of a living group team.
In the last four weeks all nine members of my living group team have bonded incredibly well. I believe it when previous students and our lecturers tell us that we will be friends for life – I can see already that all of us will in the future build on the strong friendship we have already forged.
Today I am honoured, deeply honoured, to have two in particular of my living group attend this dawn service with me – Sirzat Balin from Turkey and Tetsuya Yamamoto from japan. To me it is both an incredibly important and positive statement and a symbol that I, an Australian, am here on this most sacred of days for my country standing side by side with a true friend from each of Turkey and Japan.
The AMP course is designed to prepare us all to be global leaders. In my opinion, an important dimension to being a global leader is having an appreciation for, understanding of and respect for cultures other than our own.
Each of us has an unrivaled opportunity while at Harvard Business School to not just learn about financial management, marketing, operations and corporate strategy, but to also learn about and develop a sensitivity to and understanding of the cultures of your fellow students from around the world.
Befriend one another, and come to respect the culture of one another.
I have absolutely no doubt that all of us gathered here today are united in the hope and desire that in the future we, as global leaders, never have to confront the circumstances and decisions that the leaders of our countries had to face prior to each of the world wars and the other regional wars in which Australian and New Zealand troops have served.
But if we do, it is my hope and my expectation that, equipped with the understanding and respect that we have for one another, each of us will exercise leadership in a way such that none of us or our progeny will suffer the same fate as so many of our country men and women before us.
It is those men and women whom we remember and honour here today.