This evening, as a guest at a most enjoyable dinner party, I found myself sitting opposite the Director of the United Nations’ Office in Brussels, Antonio Vigilante. We started off talking about the trauma of Haiti. Antonio mentioned that he had lived through several big earthquakes and that, indeed, his home town had been badly hit by one. Since he had already told me he came from Campania, I guessed it was Lioni. That was 23 November 1980, not long after I had arrived in Italy (in Bologna) as a student. It made a huge impression upon us students. The ‘quake went on for 90 seconds. Three thousand people died. We tried to volunteer our help, but there was little we could do. If you go here you can see some photographs of the damaged towns and villages. People were still in temporary cities of tents and prefabricated cabins when we drove through two years later. Like me (I think), Vigilante is a passionate supporter of his organisation and its cause but also like me (I think) is a fervent reformist. Unlike me, though, Vigilante has spent 21 of his 23 years with the organisation working in the field and this has tempered his idealism. All too often, he argued, catastrophe serves as a necessary catharsis for reform that was previously obvious but unattainable. I would like to believe that people can see the need for reform without experiencing the reason why first. But we both agreed that we need visionary statesmen/women like we’ve never needed them before. So where are they? Obama stirs with his oratory, but is chained to majority management in Congress. Any others? We had an excellent debate. It felt like being at university again – only this time I suspect we knew a bit better what we were talking about.