Panel Discussion on Volunteerism and Community Development
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Stratford, Monday May 30, 2011
I am very pleased to be here today.
The topic of our discussion—volunteerism and community development—is very special to me. It is one I spend a great deal of time speaking about, as I meet Canadians from all walks of life in every corner of our great country.
As governor general, I am committed to doing all I can to shape Canada into a smarter, more caring nation. A nation that helps families and children succeed. A nation that strengthens learning opportunities and fosters innovation. A nation that values volunteerism and philanthropy. A nation that dares to dream about a better future for all Canadians today, and the next generation tomorrow.
St. Augustine once wrote, “If you must judge the quality of a society, look to see what it cherishes.”
I know how important volunteerism and philanthropy are in the city of Stratford. Whether it is to support a project, to give their time, or to answer a call for help, the people of Stratford are leading by example. On behalf of all Canadians, I sincerely congratulate and commend you, and your fellow citizens, for that. You are making a significant difference!
In 2017, Canada will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Birthdays and anniversaries are good occasions to take stock—to look back in appreciation of how far a person, a couple, a family or an institution has come.
Canada’s 150th anniversary will be no exception. Canadians can, and certainly will, use the occasion to look back and celebrate our country’s incredible achievements, to be sure. But more importantly, Canadians can, and must, use the occasion to look ahead. To reach higher. To contribute more. To share our gifts with those less fortunate than ourselves. To resolve to continue to make an impact over the course of our next 150 years.
Stratford is a very fitting place to conclude with words from Shakespeare. “How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
Shakespeare’s words remind me of a song that many of us sang as children. “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!”
We all need to take those words to heart. To encourage more Canadians to take them to heart too. To ensure they are at the very center of how we live, love and share with those in need. To use them to remind ourselves that serving others is one of our most sacred and solemn duties as citizens of one of the richest countries in the world. To use them to affirm that any contribution to society—no matter how small or insignificant it might seem—can be valuable.
Can be worthwhile. And can change someone’s life for the better.
Imagine what Canada will look like if we all continue to let our lights shine. Imagine how far our lights will throw their beams. Imagine how our lights will illuminate the darkness that still remains. Imagine what we can achieve together if we determine to keep our lights shining even in the face of cynicism, scepticism or doubt. Imagine the legacy we will leave for the next generation of Canadians, if we continue to put our lights on display for all the world to see. Just imagine!
I am now curious to know more about how Stratford benefits from volunteers and philanthropy. Dear colleagues, let the discussion begin!