The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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International Youth Summit - Huntsville

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International Youth Summit – MY SUMMIT 2010

Huntsville, Friday, June 25, 2010

How are you?

Let me begin by acknowledging the Wasauksing peoples upon whose traditional land we are meeting today.

They—along with thousands of other First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples across this country—are Canada’s deepest cultural roots and we honour their ancestors, who lived on these lands for millennia. 

On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you who are joining us from abroad.

I am delighted to meet with you, and I am deeply touched to see how seriously you are taking the proceedings of this summit. I am told that you worked very hard in the days leading up to this summit and until very late last night.

In addition to the negotiations taking place between government leaders, these few days in Huntsville are a unique opportunity to network, exchange ideas and suggest your solutions to issues that are being discussed at the highest levels during the G8 and G20.

And as governor general and commander-in-chief of Canada, I think this is wonderful.

I have always believed that bilateral and multilateral diplomacy should reach far beyond negotiations between governments.

People-to-people exchanges, or what I like to call “diplomacy on a human scale,” are just as important. 

In particular, forums like these are crucial to ensuring that the voices of youth—and ultimately the voices of global civil society—are heard, so that your perspectives can become part of the solution. 

I have had the opportunity over the past five years to travel across Canada and around the world to take a closer look at efforts being made on the ground and to take stock of the constructive ways in which people are meeting the numerous challenges we are all facing.

And everywhere I travelled during my State and official visits—across the African continent, around Europe and throughout the Americas—I made sure that I met with citizens and spoke with young people, especially during my Youth Dialogues and Urban Arts Forums.

I visited with young people everywhere they were: graffiti galleries, community centres, indigenous communities, drop-in centres, organizations for homeless youth, and even prisons.

And I was always touched by the energy you displayed, by the power of your ideas and by your daring, your ability to take risks, which allows you to tackle the impossible and achieve so much.

Having seen you at work, I know that your actions bring hope to so many people in your communities and people around the world.

A number of you use arts, culture and new technologies as tools to improve life in your communities and to build bridges across geographic, linguistic, ethnic and even religious barriers.

Some, with a hint of contempt or condescension, have called your ideas utopian and idealistic, but that is because they have forgotten that in even major change we call revolutions or turning points in history—the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Orange Revolution, the fight against apartheid in South Africa, to name just a few—young people have always played an important role.

Another example is the United States of America, where, thanks to the unprecedented mobilization of young people, the impossible—the election of the first African American president—became a reality. Sixty-six percent of the voters who made the difference were under the age of 30!

Please don’t let yourself be discouraged by others’ misgivings.

For you are not only the leaders of the future, you are the leaders of today.

And it is here and now that we need to listen to your ideas, to hear your perspectives, to welcome you to the decision-making table.

Your vision is essential.

Your ability to act locally and globally is important.

Your willingness to move from words to action matters.

And your ability to break down barriers, and create and multiply social networks is an important lesson for world leaders.

I know how much you want to be heard.

To ignore your efforts and deny your ability to act is to deny ourselves of an essential resource.

If there were one thing I could tell the leaders of the G8 and the G20, it would be to take a chance and meet young people and listen to them on their own terms.

Take the chance to listen to young people’s ideas and you will be astonished by the power of their creativity and of their critical thought.

Whether you are protesting in the street or making efforts here on the university campus, what you, as young people, have to say deserves to be heard.

I do, however, mean construction actions.

Because it is unfortunate that it is always the rioters’ actions that are reported and not the rich and promising ideas of our young people.

There is always the risk at every summit that young people will be associated solely with the rioters.

Yet I know how much your concerns have to do with the dream of a better world.

A world with more freedom.

A world with more justice.

A world that is more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

A world in which wealth is shared more equitably.

I say this because I have seen you in action.

The world will be a better place when we fully recognize that young people are a key part of the solution.

After all, you now make up more than half the world’s population.

And I am not talking about university students only.

I am talking about all youth: young people who work with and lead community organizations, young people working with street youth, those involved in multilateral institutions and international NGOs, those working with small neighbourhood associations, and young people who are trying to make a difference on their own.

I see how determined you are to break down the walls of indifference, because indifference is a plague in the world.

It creates space between us and generates solitudes.

Your thoughts on how we can live better together, work better together, are therefore of great importance in a world that is today facing financial crises, ecological and natural disasters and poverty.

Isolating ourselves is not the solution.

Working together is.

That is why I am very interested in hearing your perspectives on the ways we can all work together to tackle key global challenges.

I would like to hear some of the solutions you have identified.

And I would like to hear the ways in which you hope to keep this dialogue open once you return to your communities.

Your presence here is vital.

Please make the most of this opportunity to make a difference.

Thank you.