In 2001 I had decided to take on the DPB and started making as much fuss as I could. That included circulating my petition to the NZBR. A complete political/activist novice I rang Roger Kerr with a great deal of trepidation. It was unnecessary. Roger wasn't dismissive. He was interested and receptive though he warned that getting endorsement from members might be difficult. He wasn't wrong.
To receive petition copies I had set up a P O Box. One day, clearing it, I found a large package. Given some of the very hostile letters waiting for me most days I regarded the package with some nervousness. To my delight and gratitude the package was from Roger and contained all the NZBR publications pertaining to welfare. It came out of the blue. But I understand today, with my own pathway in and out of politics and reasonably rapid realisation that influencing thinking is just as important as political power, that for Roger, sharing ideas, and especially sowing them on fertile ground, was paramount.
In 2008 I approached Roger again. This time book in hand. He took time to read it, call me in and go through it page by page. It was a wonderfully self-interested free market gesture. He wanted a part of my book and I wanted critique. From that meeting came the paper the NZBR published in 2009 which led to more occasions when I would enjoy Roger (and Catherine's) company.
I remember turning up for the media launch of the paper and Roger leaping forward with his typical energy, smiling broadly at me saying something like "here's the star tonight". Absolutely the wrong thing to say to an introvert like me but he meant to make me feel welcome and to give me confidence.
One night during the 2008 political campaign I was called on to stand in for Rodney at a student meeting at Victoria. Roger and I took the affirmative for free trade. He was very experienced and accomplished. I was out of my league. But neither the audience nor myself was made to feel as though Roger was superior, above us, imbued with some god-given truth. Roger knew that persuasion meant honest and non-personal debate. In fact I think he was Mr non-Nasty. A rarity in the emotional arena of philosophical ideas.
Roger made time for people. He was humble and magnanimous. He could never have met the low standards of politicians and political debate in the house. And neither will Catherine (which is why I am voting for her.)
It is so very sad that he won't be around to continue this hugely important work for what I would have easily entertained as another 20-30 years. But mostly I feel for his and his closest's personal loss.
As someone who always tries to make sense out of untimely and undeserved loss I will resolve to keep trying to persuade people to ideas that will make New Zealand a better place. Can't do it a patch on the way you did it Roger but a few of us might add up to the sum you were.
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