1 October 2013
Book Launch at The Menzies Foundation
Speech by Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP
A Smile for My Parents is a remarkable new book. Its pages spring to life with little known anecdotes and vignettes about the lives of two special Australians, Robert and Pattie Menzies. Its author, Heather Henderson, has successfully achieved her aim of bringing her parents "to life as real people" and showing why the former Australian diplomat and war veteran Walter Crocker was right when he once said to her "you are one of fortune's most favoured children". As readers we learn early on of the proud Menzies and Leckie families: both close-knit, with Christian values, links to country Victoria and steeped in political tradition. Robert Menzies' parents on both sides had family members in the state or federal parliament and Pattie Menzies' father, John Leckie, was the member for Indi and later a Victorian senator who served in his son-in-law's cabinet.
Something Leckie would not have foreseen when decades earlier a young and nervous Robert went around to seek permission from John to take his daughter's hand in marriage. Finding Leckie pruning the roses, Menzies couldn't quite get the words out, leaving Leckie to go inside and say to his daughter, "I just wish Robert would get on with it". The author opens our eyes to Robert Menzies' love of poetry and literature and his workmanlike approach to perfecting the art of public speaking. As a young boy he was late to offer his first words, doing so aged three; he was later to say that was only because he didn't want to make a fool of himself by making mistakes. His uncle Syd Sampson attended Menzies' first political speech, afterwards telling him it might have been good if it were being delivered at the High Court, but that it was inappropriate for a political meeting. For Sampson, a good political speech involved speaking simply, introducing a little humour and to keep repeating a few uncomplicated ideas.