Presentation of Military Valour Decorations and Meritorious Service Decorations
Rideau Hall, Tuesday, December 13, 2011
It is a pleasure to welcome you to this presentation of the Military Valour and Meritorious Service decorations. As governor general and commander-in-chief of Canada, I am delighted to recognize such deserving recipients, and to welcome your families, friends and supporters to Rideau Hall today.
Let me begin by citing Duty With Honour, the Canadian Forces’ manual of conduct, which highlights the importance of professionalism and the guiding principles, or ethos, of our military.
“The Canadian military ethos is not just a statement of values or a checklist of idealized beliefs to be written and hung on a wall. It is a living spirit—one that finds full expression through the conduct of members of the profession of arms.”
I want to emphasize this notion of a living spirit that animates the Canadian Forces, because it reminds us that the single most important factor in our success is the human dimension; that is to say— you, the individual men and women who have so capably answered the call to service.
Each of you has demonstrated your understanding of the Canadian military ethos, and your role in representing the values of Canada. You have served overseas in Afghanistan, Haiti and the Middle East, and you have helped Canadians at home in domestic operations. Showing extraordinary courage, resolve and ingenuity in difficult conditions, you exemplify the ideal of service to country.
As commander-in-chief, I often speak to Canadian Forces members of their responsibility as role models, both here in Canada and abroad. I tell them that their standards of conduct, ethics and morals must be beyond reproach, because they embody the depth of our commitment to the common good.
Today, I also want to highlight the importance of your example within the military. Whatever your rank, you are all leaders who are showing the way for your fellow soldiers and comrades.
I often think about the nature and importance of leadership, and I believe your example is instructive. Like courage, leadership is rarely something that appears suddenly, out of the blue. Rather, the ability to take decisive action and to lead in the face of danger is nurtured and built up over time, through constant training, preparation and self-discipline.
Certainly that was the case with Samuel de Champlain, Canada’s first governor general in all but name and a truly remarkable leader. Besides being a brilliant explorer, diplomat and innovator, Champlain was also an accomplished soldier, and his early experiences in the military helped to prepare him for his later career.
As historian David Fisher writes:
“For Champlain, the royal army in Brittany became a school of leadership. He learned about fidelity to comrades, obedience to superiors, responsibility for others, loyalty to a cause, and endurance in a long struggle. That experience taught him to master himself, which was the first step in learning to lead others.”
Through your service and courageous actions, each of you has taken that step, and in doing so you have earned the respect of your comrades and the gratitude of Canadians.
The decorations you are receiving today are a testament to your courage, your ability and your determination.
Together, you embody our commitment to the rights and freedoms we cherish in a democratic society, and to the personal values of duty, honour, and service.
On behalf of all Canadians, thank you.