Feb 3, 2015

State Funeral – Hon Tom Uren AC – Introduction

We have gathered to celebrate the life of an extraordinary man.

A big man in stature.

A big man in ideas.

And a man with a big heart.

Those closest to him loved him dearly.

For me, he was not just a political mentor, but the closest I have had to a father figure in my life.

Many people who had never met him loved him also.

In an era in which politics is sometimes reduced to just background noise and shouting, Tom Uren soared above the political landscape.

I thank all of you for joining us here at the Sydney Town Hall- a place where this great man fought great battles over great issues, but who always left with love in his heart.

Today’s celebration has been organised down to the minute detail by Tom himself – he chose the speakers and the music you will hear.

He told me I would be MC at this celebration a decade ago.

Tom hoped that today we would all learn something extra about his life.

Given the circumstances of a life that began with hardship and deprivation, followed by the traumatic experience as a Prisoner of War, it would be perfectly reasonable to become bitter and without hope for the future of mankind.

His life showed a strength of character, almost beyond comprehension. If Tom had a single defining characteristic, it was his positive and optimistic outlook.

He was fond of quoting Martin Luther King, who said, “hate is always tragic.”

“It disturbs the personality and scars the soul. It’s more injurious to the hater than it is to the hated.”

The passing of a man such as Tom Uren has caused us great sadness but Tom would want us to channel his energy into using his life story to inspire a new generation into striving for a more compassionate and just Australia and world.

It’s unusual to hear hard bitten people in the world of politics speak about love. But there will be plenty of that today.

As Tom explained, in an interview on ABC television, “I remember talking at the 100th anniversary of May Day…and I talked about the question of love.

“I said, I know a lot of you blokes find it embarrassing talking about love, but that’s what our struggle is all about.

It’s a struggle about commitment and love for other human beings, to raise their lives up”

It was Tom’s hope that all who are here or watch this celebration are uplifted.