Anzac Day 2001: Dawn Service commemorative address
After the subtropical climate in Auckland, I find it is quite cold at this hour of the morning, here in Canberra in the pre-dawn time.
But thank goodness - the dawn is almost here.
Bringing with it a new day - with a sunrise to open it.
A new day - full of hope - full of promise. I wonder what this coming day holds for you?
What are your plans?
How will you use this new day about to come?
It is almost on your doorstep.
It is yours - it's free - it is given to you to do with as you please.
No doubt some will go home to a good breakfast - coffee - and maybe back to bed. Snuggle under the duvet ( or Doona - as they say here in Canberra) And a very firm "DO NOT DISTURB" to the rest of the family.
Others may take the opportunity to catch up on work in the garden. Family might have arranged to visit. A free day. A good time to catch up with the grandchildren. And yes, some will try and do the inevitable shopping.
A whole new day ahead. The next step to the future.
Soon, the sun will come up and present you with the gift of another day. A day to put your future into - for who knows just what it will bring?
What will this day bring for each one of us?
I suppose they felt like that. Those men and women and their families. All those at Anzac Cove - and those involved in World War II - and those involved in later conflicts.
For they were just like us. Some of them are here with us now.
Can you remember thinking on a morning like this - for some of you - over half a century ago ?
The pre-dawn. The time of preparation.
Thinking - what will this new day bring for me? For them, of course, it was all so unpredictable. So uncertain - so little to be sure of.
I wonder what their thoughts were - all those service men and women. All those merchant seamen, all those others involved in the war?
I wonder what their thoughts were in the pre-dawn. Awaiting the beginning of this new day. Those on the ships, and in the fields, on the planes, behind the guns, on the bases, in the shelters?
I wonder what was going on in their minds as they awaited the dawn?
If I were to say to you all here - yes, every one of you gathered this morning - that for you, the sun will not come up. .. I wonder what your response would be?
"That's ridiculous!" you would say. It would be disbelief - you would declare it was a joke.
"We all have a right to the day - to this day - Look! It's almost here. Just a few more moments and the new day will have arrived. No-one can stop this day. There is no way you, or anyone else, can stop me getting my day."
The poet, Wilfred Gibson wrote: "We who are left - how shall we look again happily on the sun or feel the rain, without remembering how they, who went ungrudgingly, and spent their all for us - loved too the sun and rain."
For they paid the price in sacrifice so that we are now able to enjoy this coming new day - in peace and plenty and freedom.
Don't rush away from this Dawn service today. Spend a moment to reflect on the personal cost of war and think... If I never went home If I never went home. Then maybe - you will catch a glimpse of the enormity of sacrifice. Both to those who went, and those who waited.
And perhaps this new dawn, ushering in our Anzac Day 2001, will hold a meaning for you that is beyond words.
Think and remember - for them, and for you. Think and remember - Lest we forget.