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Michaëlle Jean and Jean-Daniel Lafond Endowment Fund

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Launch of the Michaëlle Jean and Jean-Daniel Lafond
Endowment Fund for Social Communication Studies

Ottawa, Wednesday, January 27, 2010

First of all, let me say what an honour you have given Jean-Daniel and me by establishing this endowment fund that will bear our name.

We are especially touched knowing that this fund will make a real difference for the future of students of various cultures and origins who might otherwise not be able to pursue their studies.

Moreover, this fund is dedicated to a discipline that I have practised for years with passion and conviction, and to which my husband has devoted himself as a film and documentary maker.

I believe that as soon as we pick up a pen, a microphone, a camera or any other medium to tell our story to the world, we have a responsibility to our readers, to our listeners, or to those who look at our pictures.

We have a responsibility to get as close to the truth as we can, with lucidity and sensitivity.

We have communications media so powerful that all kinds of information are disseminated every day to every corner of the world.

We can measure that scope today, as we watch live coverage and heartbreaking eye-witness accounts of the catastrophe that has befallen our sisters and brothers in Haiti.

Those reports and accounts of the situation have given rise to an unprecedented movement of solidarity throughout the country and the whole world.

That's the great power of mass media, which I have always believed in, together with a social responsibility and a rigorous sense of duty.

The power to inform, educate, raise awareness, bear witness, and change things for the better.

The power of our communications media is limited only by our imagination and that responsibility we have as citizens.

So you have a duty, as the next generation of communicators, to forge channels of conviction to guide your thoughts and actions.

You have a responsibility to create forums of expression where ideas can freely circulate and reflect a diversity of views.

And you have the task of using those channels and those forums to shed light and to spread knowledge, and to counter indifference, powerlessness and ignorance.

You have undertaken to study communications in their social context, which means taking a scrupulously critical and ethical approach, and my husband and I are delighted to be associated with that great and noble undertaking.

We thank Saint Paul University for this wonderful initiative and wish you every success on this 40th anniversary of the introduction of your social communications program.