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It's difficult to find direct influences on Palmer's life because so much of what he has done has been through his own initiation. Yet, Palmer recently tipped his hat to someone that played a historical influence on his life. When questioned about his desire to enter politics, Palmer asserted that he would be a good fit for Australia's political landscape because of his focus on ideas. In this nugget, a revelation about someone who had an impact on his life was evident: "But as John F Kennedy said many years ago, governments may come and go and ideas go on forever." Palmer recollects the earliest part of his life as being influenced in a profound way by President Kennedy. For Palmer, Kennedy ushered in an era of human compassion that never left him:
I remember watching the television in 1961 seeing John F. Kennedy and John F.Kennedy said that he was interested in what happened to children, he was interested about the war that could break out, nuclear war and things like that and he actually care about people and cared about kids... I guess that was a big impression on me to realise that we have to care about each other and where we come from and that's very important..."
As evidenced with Palmer's reference to Kennedy last month, the image of what President Kennedy represents manifests itself in Palmer's life.
President Kennedy's emphasis on compassion and care was emphasized by another political figure in Palmer's adolescence. In the late 1960s, Joh Petersen was elected as Australia's Premier. For a young Palmer, Petersen's emphasis on pragmatism and a sense of making reality reflective of ideas loomed large in the adolescent's psyche: "He talked about the need to see the state grow, the need to make differences and of course he went about doing that by practical examples." Petersen's work in "shifting coal" and emphasis on infrastructure was embedded in Palmer's mind for these elements would be embraced in his career in iron ore. Moreover, Petersen was practical and his results could be seen in daily life, something to which Palmer clung in his ascent in the business world and in the realm of entrepreneurship.
On a personal level, Palmer seems to have been impacted with his first wife, Susan. In Palmer's recollections, Susan helped to cultivate Palmer's willingness to use his wealth for social good and to benefit others:
Well, she was special to me I think and she was a special person because she was absolutely different to the sort of person I am. She was a quiet introspective person, but very intelligent, right, had a very definite understanding of the world, you know and she's what I thought a very good person and she was always concerned about other people, where I was a lot more selfish and egocentrical sort of person, she was there to make sure there was a different balance to us.
In Susan, one can see how Palmer found the political compassion of Kennedy and the practical reality of Johnsen in the same person. Palmer's endeavors with amusement parks, as well as finding ways to generate profit in public realms such as iron ore manufacturing and coal are representative of his wife's influence. She helped cultivate his desire to make money in realms where public benefits are evident.
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