Yesterday the world lost a great man, the former PM of Australia, Malcolm Fraser. I first met Fraser as a graduate student at Harvard in the 1980's, literally bumping into him while walking across the campus. We chatted briefly and he invited me for another chat in his office. He was a fellow for a few months and was using the university as a place to rejuvenate after eight years as prime minister, and focus on a huge leadership challenge--bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa. In the international community, he was at the forefront of that leadership effort.
I met Fraser again in early 2001 when he came back to Harvard. I conducted a long interview with him and joined him in a series of meetings and talks. He was a very big man, somewhat dour in manner, but affable enough and unhesitatingly forthright when talking about the challenges facing the world. I joined him in one closed-door meeting with the former prime ministers and presidents of a dozen countries that had come together to address the US intervention into Iraq and Afghanistan. He was against these interventions, or more to the point, against the unilateralism of the American approach. Watching him in action was a delight. He knew how to speak with gravitas, to present a cogent argument, to highlight the flaws in the arguments of others, and to be provocative when needed. When he spoke, people listened.
Fraser was truly a wise man. He was also a moral man. He was not beholden to any political party, lobby group, wealthy donors, or corporate interests. As prime minister of Australia, his achievements were many, but to me his most significant accomplishment was transitioning Australia out of the old white Australia mindset to a more multicultural nation. As a fellow Australian, to Malcolm Fraser I say thank you sir.