Addendum to this week’s post about the pilot

The Governor-General with the new Patron, Mr Richard de Crespigny, the President and Chairman, Mr Jim Blackburn, and DWA Board Members

The Governor-General with the new Patron, Mr Richard de Crespigny, the President and Chairman, Mr Jim Blackburn, and DWA Board Members

Within hours of this week’s Wrestling Possums post going live with the story on the Qantas pilot who safely brought a troubled flight to safety by focusing on what he had, rather than what he’d lost , I received an email from the very captain himself. Richard thanked me for sharing his story and for using it to close ‘the circle of logic and making us rethink our perspectives to life and success’.

In his note to me (which he was happy for me to share), Richard wrote about his views on giving back to community – and shared a recent speech he made as Patron for Disabled Wintersport Australia (DWA). Richard’s presence of mind when in the cockpit of that QF32 plane has transcended into a way of life, and drives his passion for supporting the rights of those living with disabilities. His focus is clearly on reminding people to appreciate the things that you have, not what you have lost. Read on, for excerpts of Richard’s thought-provoking speech at Government House Canberra last week.

It is a pleasure to be back at Government House after 31 exciting years.

Back then in 1982 I was just a young man with dark hair. As the Air Force Aid de Camp I served Sir Zelman Cowan and Sir Ninian Stephen.

I lived upstairs and I have only wonderful memories of working in vibrant and exciting teams, working very hard, but with extraordinary individuals. It was one of the highlights of my life.

I remember one Sunday afternoon playing tennis with Sir Zelman Cowen. After the game I asked him how he had achieved so much and reached such a remarkable position as Governor General. After Sir Ninian Stephen became Governor General, I asked him the same question.

“I never aimed for greatness and I certainly never thought Anna and I would end up living here in Yarralumla said Sir Zelman. I just worked as hard as I could and followed my passion. Sir Ninian’s response was similar.

Both these remarkable Governors General indirectly mentored me when I was in my mid 20s. They were driven by beliefs to aim for excellence and to care and be empathetic to others. I’d like to think that I adopted their values and my next 30 years took fascinating and wonderful turns.

So here I am back again after these years. Looking around, I can see that many things have changed around the house. Wonderfully some things have not. I see the young footman Roger King and Flora Wehlau who were here in 1983 and who have have looked after the House and still remain on staff today – it’s wonderful to see you again.

I am honored to be asked by Their Excellencies to be the Patron for Disabled Wintersport Australia. For I have had a fortunate life.

Now I am able to give back. To help others the way Sir Zelman, Sir Ninian and others mentored and helped me.

For our lives are measured not by what we have, but by what we give, so I am proud to have the opportunity to join the DWA volunteers and to offer those with disabilities the opportunity to increase their confidence, challenge their courage and through these events maximise their potential.

DWA proved to Jess Gallagher that her vision is not limited by what her eyes can see, but what her mind can imagine. – her Bronze Medal at the 2010 Paralympic Games is a testament to DWA’s success.

And there are more DWA sports men and women here with their success stories:

Melissa Perrin  – World circuit podium level alpine skier, Tory Pendegrast – sit skier, Pru Watt, London Paralympic Games 2012 Alpine skier and swimmer Trent Milton  – snowboarder, hoping to qualify for Australia’s (first) winter snowboarding team to the Sochi Games in 2014 Jody Broadhurst – snowboarder, also hoping to qualify for the Sochi Games.

The QF32 incident reinforced a great lesson for me. That the glass HALF EMPTY approach to life does not work.

We were overloaded during the QF32 flight when we began with a perfect aircraft then quickly had to cope with over 120 failures over what we perceived was a disintegrating machine. It was only when we inverted the logic, and took the “glass HALF FULL approach” – by determining what we had working for us instead of what wasn’t that we managed to return 469 souls home safely to their loved ones.

The conclusion is clear – Appreciate the things that you have, not what you have lost. Or as Jess Gallagher told me yesterday- It isn’t about disability. Its’ about ability!

I have other assets to help me at DWA. My father Peter de Crespigny is here today. Dad was one of the founding members of the Australian Alpine Club, Australia’s largest ski club that has lodges in every ski resort in Australia. Dad taught me to ski, how to push my body, build the courage to face risks and reap the personal rewards.

Skiing used to be the domain for the fortunate, and healthy adventurers. With DWAs help, it’s a sport now for everyone, guiding the disabled through activities they have probably never contemplated before. Giving them Independence and freedom, for snow has no steps! Letting them feel the wind in their hair for the first time – something that we take for granted.

My wife Coral, daughter Sophia and wicked step mother Mariea are also here. We all ski as often as possible and we are looking forward to supporting DWA and its sports men and women in every endeavor.

Your Excellencies, and to all DWA members, thank you for the honour and privilege to be part of this great organisation.

I ask all Australians to support Disabled Wintersport Australia. It will be my most wonderful endeavour.

My mission as Patron of DWA (with Coral’s help) is to help every DWA member find their strength, fortify their resilience, and through that realise their full potential.

Richard de Crespigny