Friday, June 29, 2012

Men With a Mission

Australia seems to have more than its fair share of gritty, independent and determined characters. Perhaps it is a function of the land, which dictates that Australians occupy the periphery, the coastline, leaving the heartland of their country unpopulated. Or maybe it is a result of being alone on the edges of several oceans, distant from any other developed country (with the exception of its distant cousin, New Zealand).  Whatever the cause, there is a sense of isolation in Australia that produces men and women who are strong, forthright and resolute.
Clyde Campbell is one of them. Although he may have you believe that he is just another one of the "mates" who share a beer or two (or more) after a rough game of rugby, his personal history says otherwise. I met Clyde at a filming of a video to be used to promote his latest passion, the pursuit of a cure for Parkinson's disease, in which he had asked me to play a part. As with most Australians, he was welcoming and personable, sharing his big smile and a strong handshake. Despite his friendliness and the repartee that we shared, he remained focused on the production's agenda for the evening. I quickly realized that whether it was running, skiing, hiking, or spending time with his wife, son, Josh and two daughters, Phoebe and Zoe, he pursued the important things in his life with a driveness that reflected his years of successfully slugging it out in  the robotics business.
Now 46, Clyde was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease almost 3 years ago. After a short time to process the consequences of the diagnosis, he pinpointed with engineering precision the place to pour any energies and funds not required by his business or family. Consistent with the goal of solving the problem of Parkinson's, he met Michael J Fox, established a liaison with the MJF Foundation, and started his own family foundation, Shake It Up Australia. During the times when neither of us was involved in the taping, we had easy conversation about our common enemy, PD. Although the paths by which we got there were very different, we had a great deal in common and committed to stay in touch.
Very different from Clyde, Chris Davis is another of Australia's "everyday heroes". As president of the New South Wales Parkinson's Association, he leads a quiet campaign to improve the lot of those who live with Parkinson's disease. He is accommodating and hospitable (he and his wife, Pam, having put us up in their home for the time we spent in Sydney), while at the same time decidedly committed to wage war on the devastating disease he was diagnosed with some seven years ago. Selflessly and without fanfare, he seeks to marshal the state’s and country's Parkinson's community, promoting cooperation and coordination with all of the key stakeholders. His engineering background has given him a measured and well-designed approach to problem-solving, in addition to his balanced and affable attitude in dealing with the diversity of personalities involved.
Although self-employed and working as a part-time water consultant, Chris spent an enormous amount of time planning my visit to Australia, arranging trips to various Parkinson's research facilities, meeting with neurologists and scientists, as well as setting up speaking engagements. Not just arranging, but personally attending these meetings, Chris showed an unrivaled dedication to and support of the "Shake up My World" tour. Lacking any personal credibility in this part of the world, I was accepted by Chris at face value and he promoted my efforts as if they were his own. I gained not just a comrade in arms, but a friend.
In Australia they have what is called the tall poppies syndrome. It is the practice of pulling down successful people in Australian society on the basis of some perceived or actual fault or flaw. In a society that pulls down the "tall poppies", leadership is undertaken at high risk. However, leadership is essential if society is to address injustice and the needs of the vulnerable. It is through responsible leadership by men like Chris and Clyde that the needs of those facing the challenges of Parkinson's disease are being addressed in Australia. It is through the perseverance of such leaders that we will see a cure for Parkinson's to alleviate suffering by future generations.  


  1. Another totally awesome post, Bob. Thank you once again. Very intersesting, illuminating and inspiring. I love travel and the knowledge that comes with that - you easily share this sense of another country with your words and wisdom with a depth that is more meaningful that just travel tidbits. Bless you and Carson and all that have joined in on this "Shake Up" tour. (So wish I could shake up the Huntington's worldview in some small meaningful way too - always looking for ways to know my God path and you help me to be totally inspired - who knows!).

    1. Marianna;

      Thanks and I wish you the best on your Huntington's disease blog.