The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Address to the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa

Ottawa, Friday, September 6, 2013

I am delighted to be here with all of you. You are passionate about your community and you are passionate about giving. Most of all, you are passionate about how wonderful a country this is and how we all have a part to play in it.

The Kiwanis Club of Ottawa likes to say: “One can make a difference.” In other words, “one” is the person who gives back to the community and helps others, and “one” is the child or individual who goes on to do great things thanks to the help you offer.

One can make a difference – that is such a true sentiment.

No matter how one gives, no matter what one gives, it makes a difference. Giving, as you do every day, is service to humanity of the highest order, and you practise that every day.

And the members of this club achieve results. You give in excess of 10 000 hours of service together every year, with so many wonderful programs coming out of this.

The Kiwanis Read-a-thon and Precious Minds focus on the importance of education and literacy. The Kiwanis Music Festival gives culture a chance to shine. And supporting and mentoring cadets, such as those with the Governor General’s Foot Guards and the 211 Ottawa Kiwanis Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, inspires young people.

And, as we can see, you not only help young Canadians in a variety of ways, but you also attract so many young people to get involved.

Our nation’s capital is better for all that you do.

The question I have for you now: What next?

That is not to suggest what you are doing now is not worthwhile, but there is so much need in this country. And there is no shortage of skilled and talented people in the Kiwanis Club who have the ability to change this country for the better. What more can we do?

Specifically, what more can we do by 2017?

That will be a special year, both for our country and for the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa. It is the year of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the birth of our nation. And 2017 is also the 100th anniversary of your club. As with any birthday, we must ask: What do you get the club, and the nation, that already has so many wonderful things?

What will your gift be for the club’s centennial and the country’s sesquicentennial? 

I want to take you back nearly 50 years ago, to 1967, the year of Canada’s 100th anniversary, as the answers of today may just be found in our shared history.

Pierre Berton, in his book, 1967: The Last Good Year, outlined the many ways Canadians marked the year. But what struck me most was the message CBC personality John Fisher gave during his cross-country tour of Canada leading up to the event.

“The Centennial belongs to you!” he said.

"Do something. It doesn’t matter how small your effort is!”

I give you the same message today for our 150th and for your 100th, with a slight addition: do something, no matter how small, that changes your community and strengthens this country!

And the time to start is now. Already, we are less than four years away. We are quickly coming to the point where the talk about what to do needs to be transformed into action.

We do this because we love this country, because we love the city in which we live, because we want to improve our communities for the next generation.

And speaking of which, I want to speak now to the young people in the audience, for this message is for them as well. Never let it be said that you don’t have anything to give. I have met youth who have worked hard to change this world, and have succeeded.

In Winnipeg, for example, Hannah Taylor founded the Ladybug Foundation in 2004 at the age of eight. Today, the Foundation helps many homeless people in the community.

That is the power of youth.

You are already influencing how the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa gives, so it is natural that we would also come to you for ideas and for ways in which we can celebrate our milestone anniversaries.

And it is not the size of the project, but the impact on the community that truly matters.

Going back to the Centennial, many small and large cultural festivities that were introduced in 1967 became annual traditions that today attract thousands of people to communities across Canada.

Other long-lasting projects also came to fruition, such as the creation of our Canadian Honours System, along with the Order of Canada.

But the true strength of the Centennial was with the communities that came together in a great spirit of camaraderie to celebrate the wonderful nation in which we live. And the projects they left behind as a legacy would live on, helping to fund many community organizations—like the Kiwanis—that in turn would help improve the community.

Pierre Berton writes: “The real bonus…is to be found in the community spirit that the centennial project engendered. …[The people involved in the project] are the glue that holds the community together.”

The Centennial saw ordinary citizens do extraordinary things. Even the smallest projects at a local level had a great impact on the lives of their children, and on all of you.

So when you think of your own centennial and Canada’s 150th, I urge you to think back to 1967, to find ways in which you can leave behind a gift, one that will keep giving long after the year is over.

I have talked a lot about our history today, and there is good reason to do so. Perhaps there are a few of you here who remember, like I do, how much excitement there was in 1967. And I know how many great things grew out of that year to strengthen our country.

But most of all, I want to prove that our sesquicentennial, like our Centennial, can grow out of grassroots campaigns, that it is you who will make the difference.

Judy LaMarsh, secretary of state in charge of the Centennial planning, wrote that there was “an awakening of spirit that seduced all of us... We cast off the bonds of our conformity, and slipped out of our cloak of grey anonymity forever.”

Organizations like yours have always looked ahead, have tried to solve the problems and social ills of our world. We need you to step up once more to rally that spirit we saw 50 years ago. We need you to be innovative and imaginative. We need you to be creative and bold. We need you to put into action your plans to create a smarter, more caring nation.

And most of all, we need you to create the infrastructure—in whatever form it takes—that will leave behind a stronger country for our children and for each subsequent generation.

Lord Byng, one of my predecessors, once said: “Be as big, with minds as large and souls as great as the land in which you live.”

Let’s all take this to heart and live up to the Canadian ideal. And I know that you can. You have proven that you are capable of great things.

I asked you before: What next? What more can we do? What will your gift be?

I can hardly wait to learn the answers.

Thank you.