AUCC Canada-Brazil University Presidents’ Round Table
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, April 26, 2012
Thank you for your warm welcome. As Canada’s governor general, and as a former university president myself, I am delighted to join you for this round table.
Canadians and Brazilians have so many reasons for optimism today, and I think our growing collaboration in postsecondary education is foremost among them.
As you know, our two countries are working closely together to enhance partnerships in learning, most notably with the wonderful news that more than 12 000 Brazilian students will be able to come to Canada as part of the Science Without Borders program. That makes us the second-largest host country under this program, after the United States.
Let me say how pleased Canadians will be to welcome so many of Brazil’s brightest students and researchers to our country. I know that Canadians will likewise deepen their knowledge of Brazil, and I am certain that these exchanges will bring us closer together, and will lead to many shared insights and new discoveries.
As with any relationship between individuals, institutions or nations, an open dialogue will be critical to our success. We must identify and share specific needs and goals, and constantly, relentlessly, communicate.
Canada and Brazil share much common ground, but equally we have much to learn. Allow me to borrow a phrase from Dr. Stephen Toope’s address to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada’s centennial gathering, which captures the essential importance of learning today.
“Ours is a world where economic, social and personal fulfillment depends less upon what we know and more upon what we are able to learn, how we think and the degree to which we are able to respond to change around us.”
This is a very simple but profoundly true statement. It points to the fact that it is our ability and willingness to always learn that lies at the root of our well-being today, regardless of the specific facts of our knowledge—which, after all, can change with our learning.
All of which brings me back to the relationship between Brazil and Canada. In addition to the specific knowledge Brazilian and Canadian students and researchers will gain while studying abroad—and I am certain it will be considerable—we can be sure they will learn a great deal more. Students will pursue a course of study and find themselves exposed to new ideas and perspectives, and they will find themselves immersed in cultures and environments that are at once unfamiliar and entirely welcoming.
Unfamiliar for being thousands of kilometres from the communities in which they were raised—but welcoming in the sense that they will feel at home among people who value diversity, collaboration and the pursuit of knowledge.
When we’re at our best, our most confident, curious and open-minded, we embrace a diversity of perspectives as an opportunity to grow. And it is at those intersections—between individuals, disciplines and borders—that many of our greatest discoveries are made.
The coat of arms I adopted upon my installation bears an image of enlightenment in the form of a burning candle. The candle symbolizes not only learning and discovery, but also the transmission of learning from one person to another—and from one country to another.
The sharing of knowledge collectively enlightens us. I like to call this the diplomacy of knowledge, defined as our ability to work together and share our learning across disciplines and borders.
I can think of few initiatives more likely to foster the diplomacy of knowledge and lead to a smarter, more caring world than student exchanges between countries. The students and researchers who move between our two countries represent our best hope for meeting the complex, interconnected challenges facing our planet.
Canada is a world leader in education, and our learning will only be strengthened by our partnerships with Brazil. Your country’s expertise in science, technology, innovation and culture are of notable interest to Canadians, and already we are collaborating through our joint agreement on science and technology, which came into force in 2010.
This gathering also gives us an indication of the importance Canada places on collaboration with Brazil. I commend each of you for coming together and working to build this important relationship.
Allow me to close with a quote from William Osler, Canada’s most renowned physician and a founder of the modern medical school.
He once 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.”
Let us view our burgeoning relationship in the same way—as a long-term commitment to learning together.