Monthly Archives: December 2016

Dancing with Speeches #51 Anwar Sadat

Dancing with speeches this year has opened up new ideas, pathways, people and places. The year ends with edicts are being proclaimed in tweets from world leaders, speeches like that of Anwar Sadat’s are rare these day. The modern US composer Mohammed Fairouz says a speech is a kind of music by itself. There is certainly poetry and power in this week’s 1977 speech from Anwar Sadat. The speech took him from Cairo to Jerusalem stands as an incredible contrast to the leaders of today. What better instruction could we have than to be asked to fill the earth and space with recitals of peace! This speech is a little dance on a few phrases and the season, a speech that might be given by a CEO to their staff Christmas party.

You, bewailing mother; you, widowed wife; you, the son who lost a brother or a father; you, all victims of wars – fill the earth and space with recitals of peace. Fill bosoms and hearts with the aspirations of peace. Turn the song into a reality that blossoms and lives. Make hope a code of conduct and endeavour. The will of peoples is part of the will of God.

This Christmas Eve, looking for the spaces that gives us access to the sacred space means entering touching into eternity is the search that comes when following the star.

It is in the space, the silence between the notes, the crack where the light gets in, the shoot appearing in the crevice breaking the concrete. Keeping our poems and our music close together where we can recite by heart the words to guide us to humanity and our best selves is my hope for this season. We are all connected and when the song rings out from fans across a football stadium, the audience joining in the chorus in that same football stadium transformed into a rock concert, we know that we are one. We know we have arrived at a common place, and then when the harmonies begin … another level of beauty rises. We use the line “singing from the same hymn sheet” to bring clarity to argument and shared vision to strategic planning in corporate board rooms. What if we actually did then rise in song to consolidate a moment?

After a trial of decision-making and intense argument I was working with a board and at the end of the decision where consensus arrived I played one of KD Lang’s rendition’s of Leonard Cohen’s Hallejuah, the group stopped and silently listened … there were tears. I need to do this more often, bring music to the moments of decision-making and poetry to speech-making.

Language to bring people together is what a speech and a song can do. On this night songs will be sung by heart about the birth of a child in Palestine a couple of thousand years ago, those who only swing by the places of worship once or twice a year, will find the deep connection, the deep time in their cells. They will sing … there will be tears. The common humanity to be found in the humility of a stable with a family on the run from a tyrant seeking to destroy a generation, is the story of the day as Aleppo falls and orphans look for signs in the sky that are not bombs.

There will be some voices singing out of tune, creating a wild kind of counterpoint to remind us the rhythms and rhymes may co-exist but are not always in harmony – and that helps us know where the spaces are.   Those voices also offer us an invitation to come follow and see where we might be led. We hear the humour in the off beat and out of time.

May your Christmas take you from Cairo to Jerusalem under fire, may you find the babe in a manager in a village of your ancestors, and may you bring yourself to sacred spaces to hear the silences in poetry and music.


Egyptian President Anwar Sadat addressing the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov 20, 1977, The Times of Israel


Dancing with Speeches #50 Madonna

Madonna’s speech at the Billboard Music Awards this week blew people away with her usual bold, courageous and uncompromising words. Her vulnerability as her strength and integrity had the audience in tears and reaffirmed her fan base to be themselves (as Oscar Wilde famously said) ‘because everyone else is taken’.

How are the gifts of adversity wrapped up and presented to you? What kind of thanks can you give to the rapist, the disease, the predator, the pain? The relationship between grit and gratitude is often a rocky marriage resting on foundations of fear and anxiety, only when trust is given the role of coach can that relationship glow.

You can tell those people who just seem to have an aura about them – a graceful elegance connecting a cosmic presence to the ordinary, human and mundane. These are the people who have come into our line of sight who seem to be able to find laughter in pain and beauty in despair.

What is the recipe for this elixir they have found?

Elixir Recipe

Plant your feet firmly.

Be like a tree by the waterside.

Do not be moved from your calling.

From the deepest well inside of yourself draw the truest of your selves:




reconstructed, repaired.


Come completely.

Whole and with holes.

Look down the barrel.

Stare into the eyes of your supporters.


Recognise you are a vessel. An instrument. A shrine for the Divine.

A shrine to the Divine.

Hold on. Be still.

Own your dreams.

Be vulnerable.

Be defiant.

Be your Self – inside and out.



Dancing with Speeches #49 Elie Wiesel

For Human Rights Day dancing with Elie Wiesel‘s speech to the US Congress on the child’s experience of human rights expressed by the man 54 years later since the day of liberation of Germany from the Nazis by the USA. Wisel expressed gratitude on the closing days of the 20th century and wondered how that century might be remembered and judged severely for the horrors and violence, but mostly for indifference.

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

I turn to Pastor Neimoller for inspiration each International Day of Human Rights. Without solidarity there can be no sanctuary for the oppressed, without solidarity there can be no peace without justice, without solidarity there can be no community mobilised for change.

Indifference is a cancer to democracy, reconciliation and equity. Mediocrity takes shape as passive resistance amongst those who don’t exercise their rights and go to the ballot box or make a stand. Sure there are times when we just need to take a break and let someone else do the work on our behalf, but outsourcing what matters is becoming an international pastime when people don’t speak up and stand up for the rights of others when they themselves are safe, secure, fed, sheltered. Hearts turn to stone if they are exercising their compassion muscle.

Many have experienced the pain of abandonment as far worse than punishment; the silent treatment more painful than a raised voice; the anguish of being ignored and invisible more horrible than being noticed and scorned.

Being forgotten and becoming a footnote of history is still better than not being written into the history in the first place.

Turning off our TV screens and ignoring our social media feeds so we longer witness the tragedies of Syria and those fleeing persecution, bombs, famine, poverty, does not make it go away. Indifference will set in, masquerading as compassion fatigue as children perish, while the adults wage war. Fear and optimism walk hand in hand in the mine field of international diplomacy. A wake-up strategy is required to bring us all to our knees and beg forgiveness from the children for our indifference – what one of us wouldn’t shout out to a child if a car was coming and they were about to be hit on the road, and most of us would run to pull the child out of danger – but where is our collective intuitive response right now on this 2016 International Day of Human Rights for the children of Aleppo and indeed all around the world who are dying from hunger and thirst?

There is good and bad, black and white, and grey is the colour of indifference, no lustre, no life, a default to not caring enough to bother to take a stand one way or the other, makes no commitment. There is no grey in human rights.



Dancing with Speeches #48 Jay Weatherill

Premier of South Australia Hon Jay Weatherill put a motion to Parliament seconded by the Leader of the Opposition to say sorry for the discrimination embedded in SA legislation against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer community members.

Saying sorry never goes out of fashion and the real and felt experience of exclusion runs deep.  On hearing this apology my mind went to all South Australian LGBTIQ people I have known and loved in my own life – from my uncle who grew up in post-war years in Pt Pirie in the shadow of the smelters and railway yards –  all the way through to the young transgender child whose mum I knew when she was a young mum – all the ones in between who have made incredible contributions to our State in leadership, in the arts, public policy, business, the law and the environment.   So this week it is a line dance taking steps together and having more people join along the way.

Do you remember the scene from Priscilla Queen of the Desert in the movie under the desert night sky when the touring troupe have their turn around the campfire with local Aboringal people strutting their stuff performing I will Survive? If not take a couple of minutes to check it out.  It is a beautiful capture of inclusion, diversity and the outback; going from the dark to the dawn. The didgeridoo in the soundtrack melds in Gloria Gaynor’s classic until the fade out when you hear the sound of the local language. The music and environment births inclusion, through harmony and the beauty of belonging. No one is left behind in the scene. This is what it means to take sorry to the next level – to celebrate.

Laws come last – long before legislation there is acceptance, practices and processes. So it is too with this apology – long before the parliamentary apology there has been the sorrys in the lounge rooms, across kitchen tables, cafes and bars – where families and friends have expressed their sorrow for not being the best friend, sister, brother, mother, daughter, cousin in coming to terms with their loved one for coming out. For all the sadness and suffering felt in these relationships, there have also been many glorious acts of reconciliation, healing and acceptance.

We build spaces for these conversations where understanding and trust can grow when see one another for who they are regardless of who they love, or what their sexual orientation or who they have as parents. I have said before God loves diversity and that is why each and everyone of us is totally unique – what better evidence do we need! Making our laws more inclusive is vital to heal our democracy for those citizens who have been left out or left behind and the lesson the LGBTIQ have offered and continue to offer our public policy is to find ways to have room for all the rich diversity we have on offer in our citizenry. We need to harness what it means to have a big enough democracy with room for all.

Saying sorry goes beyond symbolism, it is accompanied by acts of contrition in my religious tradition and restorative justice. Parliaments and courts can offer some of the infrastructure to improve behaviour for those who are not yet fully ready to embrace change.

The wrongs of the past are gradually being repealed in my State and I am glad of that – it is 40 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in South Australia – and now a sorry – I am sure all those older LGBTIQ who remember that law changing (and I can remember the day very clearly) – are celebrating this week with this sorry. But I especially think of the current and next generation who will be spared some of what you had to bare.

To the pioneers, to the advocates, to those who have lost their lives, those who despaired and took their own lives, to the mums and dads, brothers and sisters who comforted and encouraged, to the places and spaces that offered safety and promises of better days – I give thanks. I am truly grateful to the LGBTIQ people I have had and have in my life – their courage and tenacity has humbled me on many occasions. I give gratitude I have you in my life as friends, healers and people of hope.  And I want to say thank you.


Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: I will Survive