No Act of Kindness Is Too Small: The New Zealand Earthquake and Kiwi Spirit

I've been inspired by the bravery and resilience shown by Kiwis in the face of a devastating earthquake that struck their country on Tuesday. The recent speech by their prime minister, John Key, was a model of Kiwi practicality and coolness under pressure mixed with generosity and optimism. In his speech, Key reminded his fellow Kiwis -- and us all -- that "no act of kindness is too small," especially after such a shattering natural calamity that left so many people in shock and without basic necessities. In an inspiring phrase, Key told his listeners that "your humanity is more powerful than any act of nature."

Communities linked together by a can-do spirit of giving can truly achieve miracles of recovery. Such linkages and communities exist throughout the land of the silver fern.

My personal link to New Zealand is my close friendship with a Kiwi I met in graduate school, Marten Hutt, and his wife, Deborah. They and their's are safe, I'm relieved to say. Both work for the New Zealand government, and both have recounted tales to me of quick-thinking action and admirable acts of bravery. Perhaps it's the relatively small size of the New Zealand government, or perhaps it's the tight-knit nature of Kiwis, or perhaps it's Kiwis' propensity for enjoying a tough scrum. Or perhaps it's all of these, and more, but I know New Zealand will recover from this natural disaster with its spirit intact.

I'm not always eloquent, but I do have a message for my Kiwi friends. May the silver fern forever remain untarnished; may your efforts to rebuild your cities and lives only serve to burnish its beauty. And in spite of these tough times, may your country forever shine brightly as a beacon to Kiwi generosity and nobility of spirit.

Professor Astore writes regularly for and can be reached at