Jake Millar on how John Key changed his life

On ’s final day as Prime Minister I can’t find a better tribute to him than the words of 21 year old .

Jake wrote:


It was C.S. Lewis who once said “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

This is perhaps the greatest lesson I have learnt from our outgoing Prime Minister, John Key, a man who changed my life by doing just that.

When I was 15-years-old, on Saturday the 4th of September in 2010, my father, Rod Miller, died in a skydiving plane crash in Fox Glacier, which killed nine people.

It was the worst plane crash New Zealand had experienced in 17 years, and it tore many people apart. …

Following the plane crash, John Key took the four-hour return drive from Hokitika to Fox Glacier to visit the crash site, and pay his respects to the victims.

John Key’s humanness and kindness inspired me during this difficult time, so I wrote to him as a 15-year-old, thanking him for caring, while asking him for some advice in regards to my own future.

I was amazed to receive a very personal letter back directly from the Prime Minister.

Not only did he address all of my points issue by issue in an extremely kind and personal way, but he also enclosed a card, saying he wanted to meet me.

Something not widely known about John is that he hand wrote a response to every kid who wrote him a letter. I understand it would be the last thing he did every evening before he crashed. He knew the difference it could make to get a personal response.

Several months later, John Key, while visiting the West Coast to see the victims’ families of the Pike River mine disaster, came to our family home in Greymouth for whitebait sandwiches, a cup of tea and a chat about my future.

He didn’t publicise the visit for political profit. No media were invited. He did it out of the goodness of his heart, because he wanted to help, and because he cared.

Jake’s story will not be unique.

It was the goodness of John Key’s heart that inspired me to try my hardest in life, and strive to be the best version of me that I could be.

I vividly remember being inspired by the fact that John Key had lost his father as a young kid, before achieving his childhood dream. I remember thinking, ‘if he could, why couldn’t I?’

I recall after Pike River John speaking to the kids who had lost a father and telling them that while this will be their darkest day, and they will worry that they will never be happy again, that he wanted to reassure them that you could have a very good and happy life despite losing your father at a young age.

Inspired by John Key’s story, I worked with hunger and a sense of purpose to achieve my goal of becoming Head Boy of Christchurch Boys’ High School, and Head Boy of Adams House, the School’s boarding house, becoming the first student in 11 years to hold both roles.

I then made the decision to turn down a $40,000 law scholarship and start my first startup OOMPHER, which was acquired by Careers New Zealand, a Crown Entity of the New Zealand Government, in May 2015, only 10 months after I launched it.

Today, as the Co-Founder of Unfiltered, I have the great honour of travelling all over the world, interviewing the biggest names in global business, growing my second startup, Unfiltered, living a dream life between Auckland and New York City.

Inspiring – 21 years old and onto his second startup.

The point to all of this is not that I’m something great, but that it’s all been inspired by that early spark of inspiration: when John Key wrote to me.

I remember running into John Key at a National Party function years after our first meeting, and he asked how my Mum’s art business was going. He had only met her once, years earlier. This showed how much he truly cared.

That’s a great memory.

Whether you loved or hated his politics, as Prime Minister, John Key was a good man. He had integrity. He cared about the people he represented. He did the right thing, even when no one was watching. …

I am unsure how many lives John Key has changed over the years, but I know that mine was one of them. For that, I will be forever grateful.

I suspect this tribute from Jake will mean more to John than all the speeches in Parliament when he leaves the House.

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