Dame Su­san tells whopper to Bill Clin­ton

Con­fes­sion at con­fer­ence

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

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

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