Tony Benn (1925 – 2014) was a British politician who never quite reached the top but who had a long career, including spells as a cabinet minister. He retired from Parliament in 2001, as he said it, to devote more time to politics. He was an avid diarist throughout his life, and as a retiree embarked on a series of sell-out tours, just where he used to talk about his views on different subjects. Even for a veteran politician, his views resonated with a younger audience, winning a poll in a politics programme as their Political Hero in 2007 – not bad for someone who’d been retired for six years!
On the other side of the coin, he is not always remembered so fondly. While I remember the opposition politician who happened to be on the right side (i.e. same side as me!) of many issues, my friend (who is fifteen years older than me) remembers his time in power, and remembers him far less fondly. I have heard Benn’s politics credited for splitting the Labour Party literally into two (a breakaway group left Labour to form the SDP in 1981). But my memory is of an altogether more benign character. I’ve seen a several politicians become nicer people once they become ex-politicians 🙂.
I consider myself lucky to have met Tony, and have read most of his written work, even diaries which were first written before I was born. Whilst I don’t agree with all his views, he has certainly been a big influence on me. After his retirement, Benn spent a lot of time thinking about what his role should be, as he certainly didn’t plan on shrinking away into obscurity. And he concluded that the role of senior people in society was to encourage.
I think he was absolutely right, although I’d take it further because I think it’s true for all of us, any stage of life. We encourage each other – that’s how we get our strength.
A kind word here, a compliment there, I think it all goes some way to telling somebody that, whatever effort they just made, it is appreciated.
That’s all. It’s just something I try to live by.