What it Means to Make a Country Great

We have come to a grieving country.

Last month, the Thai king, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, died after 70 years, the longest rule in the country’s history. Per tradition, the entire populace is mourning for 100 days. Everyone is dressed in black or white or muted tones. Memorials to the King adorn every corner. Ribbons wrap around street wires and shirt sleeves alike.

This isn’t just formality. This isn’t a show. There is a collective melancholy, a loss beyond mourning. Despite whatever hiccups he endured—when you rule for seven decades, you’re bound to attract some controversy—he was generally loved in Thailand and genuinely respected abroad. What a rare and beautiful thing.

The king partly owes his popularity to the fact that he separated himself from the politics of government, power and rule. When he changed his royal colour to pink, said by astrologers to be a good colour for his health, it also indicated a shift away from the politicized yellow shirts of the socialists or the red capitalists.

“He cared not for ethnicity, religion, legal status or other arbitrary divides—but for the collective, starting at the bottom.”

He ruled according to the fundamental belief that goodness breeds goodness, popularly quoted as saying, “A good person can make another person good; it means that goodness will elicit goodness in the society; other persons will also be good.” He spent his life aspiring to be an example. After all, isn’t that how leaders should ead?

Because of this belief, King Bhumibol Adulyadej spent much of his reign seeking to improve the life of the poorest people in Thailand.

He believed “the important thing for the survival of the Thai society is that the majority of those who work, both in the government and the private sector, still strive to work in the same direction; this is why the Thai nation still stands.”

He cared not for ethnicity, religion, legal status or other arbitrary divides—but for the collective, starting at the bottom.

To love a leader. A rarity indeed. King Bhumibol Adulyadej might be gone, but his lessons remain: “Changes have not come by themselves; these changes have come from the doings of everyone in the country.”