Dame Susan tells whopper to Bill Clinton
Confession at conference
If the president of the United States could tell a whopping great lie, then Dame Susan Devoy felt she could be elastic with the truth too, she told Queenstown business women last week.
New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner and former world champion squash player Devoy was keynote speaker at the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce business women’s conference.
She told the crowd that after becoming a Dame Companion of the NZ Order of Merit – the youngest since Sir Edmund Hilary – she received an invitation to an APEC meeting in Auckland.
Also there were the likes of Hillary and Sir Peter Blake, with their wives, June, Lady Hillary and Pippa, Lady Blake.
‘‘Prejudice against women is still alive and well,’’ she told the audience.
‘‘I’m a dame, my husband has no title. He doesn’t even get invited to the dinner.’’
Friends call husband John Oakley ‘‘Lady John’’, she said.
At the dinner she decided she wanted to meet then US president Bill Clinton.
She asked the US ambassador for an introduction who paused and introduced her as New Zealand’s most prolific Olympic gold medallist – despite the fact squash has never been an Olympic sport.
‘‘I was completely flummoxed and [Clinton] said, ‘Well, young lady, how many did you win?’’’
Lies told by the president flashed through her mind and she replied ‘‘10’’.
‘‘He said, ‘you must be the world’s most prolific medallist.’’
‘‘I’ll never forget that and I’m sure the president, who was very charismatic, won’t remember it,’’ she chuckled.
She might not have any Olympic medals but Devoy was ranked number 1 in the world continuously from 1983 to 1992.
Hard work, passion and selfbelief got her there, she said.
Growing up with six brothers and raising four sons she joked that one of her reasons for accepting the role as Race Relations Commissioner was because it involved travel.
‘‘Don’t tell anyone that was the real reason I took this job – to move away from home.’’
She described her role as promoting and protecting human rights as the make up of New Zealand changed.
‘‘We live in one of the most peaceful nations on earth but we can’t take that for granted.’’
As a country we need to have discussions about what we are as New Zealanders: ‘‘and that’s not just whether we want to change the flag or not,’’ she said.
Every day she heard stories about people facing discrimination.
Dame Susan Devoy says we need to have a conversation about who we are as New Zealanders.
Photo: Sheena Hayward