Presentation of the Killam Prizes
Rideau Hall, Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I am so pleased to welcome you to Rideau Hall for this celebration of learning and discovery.
The Killam Prizes are known to scholars around the world for being among the most prestigious research awards in Canada.
Dorothy and Isaac Walton Killam strongly believed in the importance of knowledge in our society, and they also understood the value of recognizing and supporting the work of our leading scholars and researchers.
That is why we are gathered here today—to pay tribute to those who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of truth and understanding, and to encourage the spirit of discovery in Canada.
These awards were established in 1965, and since that time the importance of knowledge in our world has grown.
More than ever before in history, it is vital that we obtain knowledge, and—crucially—that we understand the implications of our discoveries, and apply the lessons learned.
To quote the late Jane Jacobs:
“Modern life has raised the ante of knowledge required in everything from science to democratic participation.”
This simple truth has profound implications for us all. Globalization has quite literally given us a world of opportunities for collaboration, but it has also resulted in new risks.
The speed of change and the complexity and interrelated nature of our world today mean that we must deepen our commitment to learning and to working together.
This year’s Killam Prize recipients are a wonderful example of the kind of diverse, multidisciplinary community we must form as Canadians and as global citizens. You are world leaders in the humanities, in engineering, and in the natural, health and social sciences.
Together, your studies examine some of humankind’s most pressing challenges—as well as our most exciting opportunities.
It is difficult for me to overstate my admiration for your achievements. Having spent the bulk of my life and career in academia prior to my installation as governor general, I appreciate the incredible hard work, creativity and dedication that is necessary to reach this level of excellence.
With these awards, you are being honoured for your life’s work, but you are also being encouraged to boldly continue your research and delve deeper into the unknown.
I also want to take this opportunity to call upon each of you to strive for new and innovative ways to share your results—not only with other researchers, but with the general public as well.
What can each of you do to make the language of hermeneutics, algorithms, superconductors, molecular science and micro- and macroeconomics more broadly accessible to everyone?
I ask for one simple reason: the vitality of our democracy depends upon the existence of a well-informed public.
As Canadians, we must work hard to make new discoveries, and then—importantly—to understand and discuss their significance. And in this we need your help, as experts and as teachers.
Each of you is part of a grand human collaboration that has over the past several centuries led to an explosion of knowledge.
I want to thank and congratulate you for your remarkable contributions to our shared understanding, and to wish you the very best in your future endeavours.
It is an honour to present you with the Killam Prizes.