Welcome to the people section of my blog, In the Circle. In this section, I will be profiling inspiring individuals who have really moved me. I want to engage with their ideas and encourage others to think about different topics which affect society. To start, I can think of no one better to focus on but Max Harris. As many of you will be aware, Max is also a University of Auckland Law School alumnus with a stellar academic record. He went on to clerk for Justice Sian Elias at the Supreme Court in Wellington (New Zealand’s highest court) for eighteen months. He was then awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, where he undertook the notoriously arduous BCL (Bachelor of Civil laws) degree. Max also graduated with a MPP (Master in Public Policy) from Oxford.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Max then went on to become an Examination Fellow at All Soul’s College at Oxford University. This position is typically awarded to between one and three people each year, for a term of seven years. Candidates are typically the very best in their disciplines and come from all around the world. Candidates must sit a gruelling twelve-hour written exam, which is described as the most difficult examination in the world. Four to six finalists are then invited to an oral examination at which between 50 to 60 All Souls Fellows interview the candidates. There are about a dozen Prize Fellows at All Souls at any one time, and around 75 Fellows in total. Examination fellows receive lodging and meals, as well as the rather enviable opportunity to study whatever they want without having to sit exams. It is in this environment that Max is currently working towards a doctorate which focusses on constitutional law.
While it’s hard not to be bowled over by his glowing credentials, what really impresses me about Max is the way some of his observations about society resonate deeply with my own. Despite undertaking many years of academic study, both in New Zealand and overseas, he is surprisingly pragmatic. His idealism is refreshing and it’s hard not to like the man behind some ideas about how the world can be a better place. For example, Max believes that we need to rethink what belongs on the left and what belongs on the right. He gets to the very root of my own personal struggles with politics, which for me has always run deeper than simply ticking a box based on a party’s policies. Max also believes deeply in the importance of community, which is something that I value as well. In recognition of his tremendous achievements, Max was named a 40 under 40 Influencer by the University of Auckland Alumni Association. In his interview, he says:
I’ve always admired people who are humble and watching how they carry themselves has been really important for me. I’ve also come to realise there’s only so much we can do on our own; individual effort and personal qualities only go so far. It’s how we relate to other people, how we join together to tackle issues we care about, how we treat other people and how we address structures in society that is important.
While I have not yet met Max, I’m also impressed by how humble he is, despite his amazing achievements. On a personal level, perhaps the most amazing discovery is that Max has actually made me care about politics – not so much the dramas in the Beehive on a day-to-day basis, but rather the deeper issues that the government needs consider and how best they may be addressed. From someone who doesn’t bother voting, if only you were to run for PM, I’d give you my vote Max.
Over the coming weeks, I will be reading Max’s book The New Zealand Project, which was published in 2017. In his book, Max sets out his vision for the challenges confronting New Zealand. I hope to draw from Max’s book and engage with his ideas closely in future blog posts.