Order of Canada Investiture Ceremony
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Rideau Hall, Friday, September 16, 2011
It is always a great honour for my wife Sharon and me to welcome the recipients of the Order of Canada and their loved ones to Rideau Hall.
As you know, this building and these grounds have been the home and workplace of every governor general since Confederation, and it is here that Canadians gather to share ideas and dreams for our country, and to discuss our role in the world. Your investiture today is a celebration of all you have achieved, and it is also an opportunity to dream together of the country we desire.
Let us begin by recalling the motto of the Order of Canada: Desiderantes meliorem patriam—“They Desire a Better Country.” I would like to reflect on this for a moment, and to ask, “How have your names become synonymous with this desire?”
The answer is simple, I think, but no less extraordinary for that.
Each of you is here today because you are driven to excel in something much larger than yourself.
You are a diverse group of leaders in Canada and on the international stage, and the variety of your achievements is truly remarkable. What unites you is the desire to effect change through the pursuit of excellence in your chosen field. Through your efforts, you have made many wonderful contributions to our society.
Thanks to you and to those who surround you, Canada is a smarter, more caring, dynamic and confident country.
Sometimes, Canadians are reluctant to talk about excellence. It can appear unseemly, or elitist, and to be sure, it is better practised than preached. But as Ken Dryden recently wrote—and he knows a thing or two about excellence—we need not hesitate when our true focus remains fixed on the task at hand.
He writes: “Being the best has to do with being so absorbed in what you’re doing that you have no time for attitude. You have no time for yourself separate from what you’re doing. What you are doing, you know, is more important than you are. And because you know this, no matter how good you are, no matter how good you become, you are never good enough. The great always fall short in their own minds; the great remain fiercely proud, yet humble. They know they are not as good as they seem to be.”
Having sat where you are in 1988, and again in 1998 when I was promoted to Companion of the Order, I know the truth of these words. We can always do better, and there is always more to be done.
Each of you is distinguished by a dedication to excellence and to improving your communities and our country. I am so pleased to be here to help celebrate and encourage your work, because the challenges we face in the complex, rapidly changing world of the 21st century are immense. And, as you have shown, so are the opportunities to contribute.
The Order of Canada is a living example of the kind of cross-cutting, interdisciplinary community we must form as we strive to live up to the promise of this wonderful country. I want to invite you to become full participants in imagining ways to build a smarter, more caring nation as we approach our 150th anniversary in 2017. Our unique Confederation was the result of years of careful planning and consideration of the true nature of Canadian society, and I believe this wonderful milestone can help us focus our efforts in the years to come.
Your help is essential to creating the nation of which we dream.
It is my privilege as governor general to honour those who have given the best of themselves. On behalf of all Canadians, please accept my warmest congratulations and sincere thanks for all you have done.