Presentation of Decorations for Bravery
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Rideau Hall, Friday, May 6, 2011
Sharon and I would like to welcome you to Rideau Hall for the presentation of the Decorations for Bravery. Let me take a moment to thank each of you, not only for the bravery you demonstrated, but also for thinking so altruistically.
A story goes that a grandfather was telling his granddaughter of two wolves that are inside all of us. The first is a selfish wolf, a greedy wolf, a wolf that looks out only for itself. The second is a selfless wolf, a generous wolf, a wolf that puts others before itself. These two wolves are constantly battling within us for supremacy.
The granddaughter asks, “Which wolf is winning?”
The grandfather answers, “The wolf that we feed most often.”
All of you here today have fed the second wolf, have nurtured it and, in one fateful moment—when the life of a loved one, neighbour or complete stranger was in jeopardy—you set it loose and performed a noble act. Some of you were able to save a life; others were not so fortunate, which I know can be devastating.
But even in those tragic cases, you brought comfort to their loved ones, to know that at the very end, they were with someone who cared, someone who would so willingly risk their own safety for another’s well-being.
Although we mourn those who lost their lives, these decorations are also an opportunity to honour them, their memory and their families. By accepting this decoration, you acknowledge not only your own actions, but also a life sadly ended too soon.
We live in a culture of heroes. Fictional heroes, with powers and skills too numerous to mention, leap from books to movies to TV. Our children grow up wanting to fly like Superman or battle villains like Spider-Man. But it is the real-life heroes, the ones who rush headlong into danger with nothing but their wits, ingenuity and determination, who truly make a difference. We see it in our Canadian Forces, we see it in our police, paramedic and fire services, and we see it in ordinary Canadians who take it upon themselves to change the world. All of you here are inspirations to your communities.
The Greek historian Thucydides once said: “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them...and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” You knew the danger, but you did not hesitate to act, to take a stand, to defend a loved one, to safeguard the public, to save a life, or simply to do the right thing.
Although a life is not often defined by a single moment in time, a single moment in time can speak to who we are as individuals. Are we compassionate? Do we have courage? Are we brave?
These are the questions some of us spend our whole life trying to answer, questions that you have faced head on and overcome. You have shown compassion for your neighbours; you displayed courage; you are brave.
As we approach the milestone 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, new ideas and leaders will emerge to guide this country and shape it into a smarter, more caring nation. The decoration you will receive here today is not simply recognition, but also a call to action. Continue to be bold; continue to contribute to your communities; continue to inspire others to service.
You have fed your own selfless wolf and shown its colours to the world. Now, I urge you to find ways to nourish and encourage the wolves inside others, because it is our job—as parents, as communities and as a society—to ensure that we are strengthened by philanthropic spirit.
And to all those families who are here, in support of the recipients or in memory of those we have lost, I want to say thank you, for your own, private displays of bravery.
I congratulate all of you on receiving these decorations.