Presentation of the Killam Prizes
Rideau Hall, Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Let me begin by taking a moment to pay tribute to the wonderful contribution to Canada that Dorothy and Izaak Walton Killam made in establishing these prizes.
The Killams were truly remarkable philanthropists who strongly believed in the power of higher education and study. Since 1965, thousands of fellowships, scholarships and prizes have been awarded in their name, and their legacy reminds us of the central importance of learning to our future as Canadians and as citizens of the world.
My wife, Sharon, and I share the view that education is the key to knowledge and understanding, and that is why we are so delighted to welcome you to Rideau Hall today.
These prizes recognize your career achievements in the humanities, engineering, and the social, natural and health sciences. Your various specializations include the wonderfully diverse fields of computer science, genetics, Aboriginal languages, antenna research and social psychology.
And what you share is insight, imagination and a dedication to the pursuit of knowledge. These qualities, paired with your ability to collaborate widely, have elevated your work to great heights.
Each of you is on a remarkable journey of learning.
More than a hundred years ago, Dr. Willam Osler—whom many consider to be the greatest Canadian of his time for his contributions to the study and practice of medicine—summed up our ideal approach to learning when he said:
“The hardest conviction to get into the mind of a beginner is that the education upon which he is engaged is not a college course, not a medical course, but a life course.”
You embody the conviction that learning is a lifelong endeavour. Quite apart from that which your research has taught us about the human and natural world, I believe that we can all learn from your example.
When we are at our best, our most open-minded, energetic and imaginative, we view every day, every conversation and indeed each moment as an opportunity to share, to use our insights and experiences, and to learn.
To draw from my own recent experience, I have spent the past 12 months as governor general on a journey of discovery, travelling across Canada and meeting people in their communities. It has been an incredible year, full of diverse people and experiences.
But for all of this country’s rich diversity, I am struck by how much we have in common, and how together we are striving for a better country. Regardless of age or affiliation, all Canadians want to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.
As we celebrate your remarkable work, I want to encourage you to think about the common thread that unites your efforts. Our greatest advances and innovations often occur at the intersections between disciplines—and ultimately, all knowledge is interrelated.
Who knows what a greater understanding of quantum physics will be able to tell us about genetics, human psychology or linguistics—or vice versa? Perhaps discoveries in one field will cast very little light on another—or perhaps they will teach us a great deal.
Each advance in our understanding has the potential to unlock new knowledge.
This potential, in addition to the more immediate practical applications of your work, is what makes your research so exciting.
Your studies are part of a grand human collaboration that has for the past 200 years led to an explosion of discovery, and I believe that in order to meet the challenges ahead, we must renew our commitment to lifelong learning and to innovation.
As our exploration of the natural and human worlds delves ever deeper, it is imperative that we share our insights and findings, and that we work together. Because in today’s world, it is above all through collaboration that the truly great leaps are made.
With this in mind, I congratulate and thank you for your remarkable accomplishments that have added so greatly to our collective store of knowledge.
You are worthy recipients of the Killam Prizes, and I look forward to following your work in the future.