Honorary New Zealand Order of Merit

Once again I am pleased to thank New Zealand. No country, outside of my native United States, has treated me better than New Zealand. New Zealand has added me to a list of many other people receiving a New Year's Honour. Mine is an honorary one, because I am an American citizen. But I am deeply touched. It symbolizes the intense love I have had for New Zealand since I first became aware of it in the 1970's. It is one of several countries I reported on in my career of over 44 years. But my relationship with them has always been special.

Now it is my turn to try to help them. That beautiful island nation, with breathtaking scenery and warm, generous people, continues to suffer from the ongoing string of earthquakes which destroyed a large portion of Christchurch and its suburbs. Some parts of it may never be safe for rebuilding; the earth and the sand may be too unstable. But much of the commercial, residential, and farming sectors remain. The earth shakes occasionally, but life goes on.

I hope to use this honor to put it towards helping the people of Christchurch. They would appreciate help from many quarters. It is amazing to realize people died in the biggest series of quakes because they were in the badly damaged cathedrals and office buildings. Of the 181 known dead, many were foreigners who were visiting or studying in Christchurch.

While the good people of Christchurch are putting their lives together, other parts of New Zealand remain safe, stable, and are built to withstand earthquakes, unless they are shaken apart by the many adventure films made in NZ! It is beautiful summer there now; in our sweltering summer, the snow skiing is terrific in NZ.

Now back to the honorary award. I first learned about it from an important phone call. Later I got a letter from the Governor-General, saying, "I am delighted to inform you that her Majesty The Queen has been pleased to appoint you as an Honorary Officer of The New Zealand Order of Merit, in recognition of your services to New Zealand - United States Relations." That was followed by another letter from Prime Minister John Key. He wrote, "Our success as a nation relies of citizens from all walks of life stepping forward, helping others, seeking new ways of doing things, and reaching for their dreams. You have made an outstanding contribution to that success and enriched the lives of us all."

I am certain I do not really deserve this, or the other fine honors New Zealand has given to me over the years, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Press Club of NZ, and the naming of a champion race horse after me! Now I have to try hard, to justify their confidence in me. Thank you Kiwis! May you have a safe, peaceful future.