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On Friday 31 October, the United States Ambassador, His Excellency, J. Thomas Shieffer, was honoured with a civic reception in the town of Parkes.
He was welcomed by the Mayor of Parkes, Cr Robert Wilson, who introduced him to Mr John Cobb MP, local member of Federal Parliament and to Mr Tony McGrane, local member of State Parliament and to other prominent residents of the town.
Cooke Parke in the centre of Parkes was the venue for the civic welcome where a large crowd had gathered. Included were many school children who had spent weeks preparing for the visit. The highlight of the civic welcome was the presentation of a gift to the people of Parkes from the US Ambassador. His excellency presented two small Australian and American flags (framed) that went on one of the space shuttle missions. The gift was in recognition of the support and involvement of the people of Parkes in space exploration. He made a point of presenting it to the three Parkes High School students - representing the youth of Parkes - who had participated in the official welcoming ceremony. They were school captains Michael Chambers and Lauren Armstrong, and vocalist Hannah Jayet who sang "I still call Australia home". In return, the Mayor presented Ambassador Shieffer with gifts from the Parkes Shire - a painting featuring Australian wildlife and a copy of the movie The DISH.
In his address, Ambassador Shieffer spoke of the power of "dreamers" such as Sir Henry Parkes (after whom the town is named), Taffy Bowen (the former chief of the CSIRO's Radiophysics Laboaratory) and John F. Kennedy had in shaping today's world.
"One hundred and thirty years ago, an Australian named Sir Henry Parkes dreamed of a railroad that would open up this part of Australia to the rest of the world," Ambassador Shieffer said. "Forty-two years ago, another Australian named `Taffy' Bowen dreamed of an observatory here that could be a window to the universe. Forty-one years ago an American President named John F. Kennedy dreamed of putting a man on the Moon within the decade. Now, decades later the power of those dreamers still shapes the lives of people here and around the world. We call people like Henry Parkes, Taffy Bowen and John F. Kennedy visionaries. We praise their abilities to see a world that is not, but a world that can be. We call them leaders. Men who achieve their destinies by persuading others that dreams are for the many not just the few."
Ambassador Shieffer said that 42 years ago, the people of Parkes joined with their fellow Australians in casting their lot with the dreamers of the world not the critics. He described these dreamers as having begun a journey that was far from over. "We celebrate their courage, their faith, and their desire to be part of something greater than themselves. And we celebrate today a new investment, an investment in the future, a new opportunity to know the unknown, a new chance to prove the worth of ideas."
Speaking of the continuing advances in space exploration Ambassador Shieffer concluded by saying that today's world cannot know where the `journey' will end. "But at least on this day we can take pride that when we were asked, we too chose the path of the dreamers. As the poet reminds us, that will make the difference," Ambassador Shieffer said.
Reproduced courtesy of the `Parkes Champion Post' newspaper
Click here to see the Launch of the Parkes Mars Tracks.