The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Youth Dialogue in St. John's

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Youth Dialogue on the Occasion of the International Year of Youth

St. John’s, Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How are you?

I am so pleased to be back in Newfoundland and so delighted that I have this opportunity to celebrate the International Year of Youth with you, the young “movers and shakers” of St. John’s.

This is in fact the second Youth Dialogue I am holding in Canada to mark this international year.

Just last week, I joined hundreds of youth to launch the International Year of Youth, through a forum at Rideau Hall, and a celebration on Parliament Hill. Through their moving testimonies and creative ideas, the youth of the national capital region persuaded decision-makers to include them as key players in planning efforts to improve the entire region. I was very pleased by this outcome.

That is why I am delighted that Premier Williams has decided to join us today. This is surely a great sign of the great importance attributed to youth by this province.

Today, however, I am here in St. John’s, because I believe in you, youth leaders representing a plethora of dynamic community organizations.

I believe in your words of hope.

I believe in your efforts to improve your lives, your communities, and our society.

I also would like to learn more about the way in which young people in Newfoundland and Labrador are pursuing their aspirations and making a difference around them.

Over the last five years of my mandate, I have traveled across Canada to meet young people who, with very limited resources, are addressing serious issues in their communities.

Poverty.

Injustice.

Homelessness.

Exclusion and discrimination.

Environmental sustainability.

Crime and violence.

You name it!

Young Canadians I have met are at the forefront of community-based initiatives for change.

Nevertheless, youth still confront people who dismiss your ideas as being too utopian or idealist—as if ideals are not important. Yes, their criticisms may be fuelled by prejudices or misconceptions.

But I encourage you to take these accusations as compliments, and turn them on their head.

For anyone who has taken a serious look at the revolutions and major turning points in world history knows that young people have always been catalysts of change.

Let’s think about it.

The Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and even the election of the First African American president of the United States of America—an incredible feat given the country’s legacy of slavery and racial segregation.

Ultimately, history teaches us that we need ideals to inspire us.

To help us dream of a better world and to encourage us to take action in our own way.

So please do not be intimidated.

Stay firm in your commitment to tackle social issues and stretch out your hands to empower your friends, your peers, your parents, the local business down the road, and even elected officials to join you in reinventing your community, our society, and even the world.

It is a shared responsibility.

Everyone has a role to play, including the youth.

Your ideas, your perspectives, your energy, your vision, your concerns, your initiatives are key. Empowering the youth is empowering a community, a society, a nation, a country.

Let us be clear: youth are also the leaders of today, and it is here and now that we need to welcome you to the decision-making table.

That is why I want to validate youth initiatives, through my “Can We Talk” Youth Dialogues series, whenever and wherever I can. 

Having seen you at work, I know that your efforts carry the promise of a better society.

Some say it takes a community to raise a child.

Again, I would add that it takes youth creativity to uplift a society.

For I know that you have what it takes, as I have seen you in action in graffiti galleries, indigenous communities, after school drop-in centres, boys and girls clubs, recording studios, organizations for homeless youth, high schools, universities, and even a prison.

Yes a prison!

Because I have seen how hope can be cultivated in the direst circumstances, I understand why everyone deserves a second chance.

My tenure as governor general is coming to an end but I look forward to continue working with you and young people across the country, through my new foundation, the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, which will be headquartered in Ottawa and will focus on empowering youth organizations across Canada.

The theme of the International Year of Youth, dialogue and mutual understanding, is a powerful one. It reminds us that we have an individual and collective responsibility to address issues that divide us and to build upon the goals and aspirations we have in common.

Humanity’s survival is predicated on our willingness to abandon the “everyone for himself or for his clan” mentality and to return to more collective values.

It is time for the world to embrace an ethic of sharing.

And I believe that the United Nations is right on point in this regard.

For who best to turn to for guidance, in this matter, than to young people?

So dear friends, now is the time for you to be daring with your ideas and to be audacious with your suggestions.

The world has your back!

And policy shapers and decision-makers are prepared to listen.

This is your time!

Please seize the moment.

The floor is yours!