STILL WORKING: Kevin Rudd hopes to keep working as long as he is useful.
STILL WORKING: Kevin Rudd hopes to keep working as long as he is useful.

Kevin Rudd, a senior with the drive to keep pushing himself

IMMIGRATION Minister Peter Dutton's mean-spirited comments recently that Kevin Rudd should retire and just take up caravanning must have sent shudders through many seniors.

While caravanning is marvellous, to suggest that it is all older people should be doing is offensive to all seniors.

Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010 and again in 2013, is now based in New York where he has no caravan but does have a number of impressive titles, the main one, President of Asia Society Policy Institute.

He also has his eye on the top job at the United Nations, replacing Ban Ki-Moon. I don't think caravanning is on his agenda.

Rudd is one senior who just keeps on keeping on. Love him or hate him, you have to admire his capacity to push on when, at age almost 60, and with no financial concerns he could so easily sit back and relax.

No matter the number of set backs, turmoils, scandals and even just plain hurdles he has had to deal with in the past, he has never taken the easy road and given up.

Despite a busy schedule that takes him all over the globe, Kevin Rudd still takes as much time as he can to visit the place of his birth and childhood, Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

He has long had a beach house on the Sunshine Coast and whenever he can, he manages to squeeze in a mini escape with his wife Therese, children and now grandchildren.

Continued study and constant learning along with on-going work are vital to his wellbeing.

"My attitude to life and work is that no matter whatever I am doing, one day they will take me out in a box, from some desk, somewhere," he said in a telephone interview with Senior's Newspapers while he was en route from Washington DC to Ottawa.

"In some cultures people are working in their 70s, 80s and even 90s not because they have to, but because it is part of their life.

"That is somewhat different to Australia.

"My aspiration is to keep working as long as I am useful."

His work now with the Asia Society Policy Institute ensures his mind is constantly alert, open and engaged.

It's (the institute) a think tank, focussing on big policy challenges that face Asia over a decade ahead," he said. "I've been in Washington talking to the administration about the challenges in Asia, including North Korea, India and China."

Learning something new has always been an important part of Kevin Rudd's life, instilled by his mother when he was a bare-footed young boy on a dairy farm in Eumundi in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, catching a ride to the Eumundi State Primary school on a milk truck.

"There were no libraries in those days," he said. "I remember the day my mother bought me a book on architecture. She was always trying to expand our minds; I remember seeing a section on classical Chinese architecture in that book, these interesting elegant buildings of curved roofs. I'd never seen anything like that before. There were not many of them around in Eumundi!

"I got interested in China then. Later when I became interested in politics I remember watching Gough's (Whitlam) visit to China in 1973, watching it carefully, thinking that was the place where they had the curved roofs. . I watched every piece of Gough and Margaret in China. China then became a big part of my thinking."

That thinking became a passion which turned into a long love affair with everything Chinese.

He studied the Chinese language at the Australian National University after he'd finished high school. and hitch-hiked down the east coast of Australia to Canberra.

"I found studying Mandarin really bloody hard," he said.

"If you are learning a foreign language and want to speak it fluently, the easiest thing is to start when a little kid at school. But I persevered for the first three months, every day at the Australian National Universityin Canberra.

" By about the three month point, I remember saying 'this is like going back to Grade 1, sounding out words'.

"But slowly and surely it all started to come together. It took five years (to become fluent in Mandarin.) I speak French a little. I have workable French but my wife is terrified of me speaking it in case I get it wrong."

Whatever your opinions on Kevin Rudd, you have to admire his work attitude and strong sense of purpose...it's a good act for seniors to emulate.


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