Order of Canada Investiture Ceremony
Rideau Hall, Friday, November 4, 2011
It is a privilege for my wife, Sharon, and me to welcome you to Rideau Hall.
We know just what it is like for you and your families to be here today. How proud, yet humbled, you feel as you join the Order of Canada.
Established on Canada’s centennial as the cornerstone of our national system of honours, the Order of Canada pays tribute to Canadians who exemplify the highest qualities of citizenship, and whose contributions have enriched the lives of their contemporaries.
Its motto, “DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM,” proclaims the aspirations of its members who, in their lives and work, have shown that they “desire a better country.”
What does the phrase, “they desire a better country,” mean? What does it require? What legacy does it leave for the generations to come?
I believe that the motto means that someone is ready to act; to take the next step; or to roll up his or her sleeves. That someone is bold enough to throw caution to the wind.
I believe that the motto requires someone to have a vision for the future and faith in what might be.
It compels each of us to have enough confidence to be sure of what we are hoping for, certain of what we cannot see.
It inspires us to have the determination to press on towards a goal in the knowledge that it might not be achieved until long after we are gone. To forge ahead with a dream, content only to anticipate, but not to reap, the reward.
Think for a moment of the legacies we have received from the many Canadians who have done just what the motto says. The inheritance that is ours because of their courage, generosity, creativity and hard work.
Think of those who have fought for our freedoms; enriched our culture; served in our communities; searched for knowledge; discovered new technologies; and created and sustained our political, socio-economic, cultural and charitable institutions, too.
So, why then should someone who reflects the motto—who has shown his or her desire for a better country—be qualified to receive the highest honour that Canadians can bestow?
Because, at its core, the Order of Canada is about excellence, achievement, innovation, and a job more than well done.
Perhaps even more importantly, because its motto serves to remind us that there is still much more about which we, as Canadians, can dream, so much more that we should give and must do.
For it obliges us to fight the temptation to become complacent about the responsibilities that we all have. We cannot suppose that someone else will stand up and serve. We must not assume that others will reach out and share, nor wait for another to uncover new ideas to move our country ahead.
Georges P. Vanier dedicated his life to service. As a veteran of both world wars, a diplomat, a social worker and Canada’s 19th governor general, he did all he could to inspire Canadians to do the same.
Listen to the words he spoke during his installation address in 1959:
“Each one of us, in his own way and place, however humble, must play his part towards the fulfillment of our national destiny . . . . If Canada is to attain the greatness worthy of it, each one of us must say, ‘I ask only to serve.’”
Even though his address was given nearly a decade before the Order of Canada was established, his words wholly reflect its motto’s charge.
I know I speak for all Canadians when I say your lives and work do as well.
And for that, I am sincerely honoured to congratulate and commend you all for setting your standards high; for giving your time, talents and treasures to serve; for investing in, and enriching, the lives of all Canadians; and for setting an example for generations to come.