"It's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before": Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's Chief of Staff.
For many, Coronavirus is an unmitigated tragedy. As someone who's recently lost a sister to cancer, I can only loosely imagine the anger, fear and emotions that anyone who's been affected by the sudden death of a friend or relative must feel during this great disruption.
This is, nonetheless, a point of fracture.
Something has broken, yes, but now we have a chance to seize opportunities and change for the better. It's a moment to embrace new ways and do things differently. The moment is now, while we're united and our fixed routine is shattered. This is the one chance to snatch and grasp at these fleeting possibilities; whether reform of seemingly intractable tax arrangements or adapting to the new digital world that (already) exists all around us. It's our chance to catch up: there's so much to do.
Just take education. We can't afford to squander this opportunity to reform this sector.
The next couple of weeks will determine the contours of our future. Is it going to be positive and can the government use this fleeting chance to tackle serious reform? Or will, instead, we remain tremulous, too afraid to use this opportunity to change things for the better?
Let's start at the very beginning - that vital first year of school which can establish the trajectory for a child's whole future life. We can't afford to get it wrong and yet we do, right at the beginning, by sending some kids before they're ready and others too late.
Parents do have some small degree of flexibility as they enrol children in transition (ACT and NT); prep (Vic, Qld, Tas); kindy (NSW); pre-primary (WA), or reception (SA), but that's only by holding them back a year or thrusting them forward.
There's only one start a year. This is squanders the chance - at a critical moment in development - of ensuring that children begin school at the exactly right point in their development.
If ever there was a moment to introduce a staggered entry to school; two commencements a year; this is it.
Without this simple reform an utterly arbitrary date, the day people are born, will have possibly the most decisive and enduring effect on our lives.
It will shape the contours with which students engage with education and the opportunities that will open up or close off. Why not use this moment to open up the possibility of two entries per year to meet the needs of the children, rather than the state?
Already, some of the older children who began this February are presumably in desperate need of being intellectually challenged and can't wait to return to school.
They'll be ready to move forward quickly and eager to get back and engaged with the learning environment. Others, perhaps including younger ones in the cohort who were moved forward, might be better off split into class groups that would have more time to stress consolidation.
They'll have a bit longer to mature and, as a result, will be more ready to learn. They'll be moving at the right pace for them - which might not be the correct pace for someone almost a year older.
This is, in other words, a brilliant opportunity to split the year so as to properly meet the needs of our children.
In a dozen years' time, instead of just one HSC in October/November there could be a second examination period in May/June.
This would be an extremely simple way of redesigning education around the needs of children instead of accepting a bureaucratic, once-a-year requirement of bureaucrats who would, anyway, find their work more evenly spread over the academic year.
Just because we've always done things one way in the past doesn't mean we shouldn't seize this chance to change. This virus has opened up an opportunity to do things not just differently, but better. Much better.
Universities shifted to two entries a year because it made sense. Why don't schools - where a child's readiness and ability to learn at the age of five is far more randomly spread than at the age of 18 - do the same?
Similar changes should be embraced at the other end of schooling.
Now universities have realised that an exam result isn't necessarily the only way to determine who should be admitted to particular courses, perhaps it's worth pushing harder this door until it's properly open.
Issues like these should be exactly the ones oppositions should be raising, at both the state and federal level.
Unfortunately, the Punch-and-Judy show that passes for politics nowadays isn't offering much in the way of positive ways forward for the future.
Equally significant elements of our sclerotic bureaucracy appear to be so focused on simply returning to normal that they've passed up on this chance for change.
The next couple of weeks will determine the contours of our future. Is it going to be positive and can the government use this fleeting chance to tackle serious reform?
Or will, instead, we remain tremulous, too afraid to use this opportunity to change things for the better?
Getting back to normal isn't enough. The best organisations and nations, those that are going thrive in the future, are already attempting to work out how to capitalise on the 'great disruption'.
Australia's been lucky dealing with the lurking viral threat so far, but luck is a substance we've manufactured.
Although there've been a couple of self-evident horrendous blunders (hello Ruby Princess) the worst one is about to arrive. It's missing the opportunity to do things better.
Coronavirus has given us a wonderful opportunity to stop and think. Let's use this time wisely.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer and a regular columnist.