Presentation of the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award
Rideau Hall, Monday, April 7, 2014
What a privilege it is for my wife, Sharon, and me to welcome you to Rideau Hall today for this celebration of giving.
And how fitting it is that we have gathered during National Volunteer Week!
The Caring Canadian Award was first established in 1995 by my predecessor, the late Roméo LeBlanc. He wanted to recognize Canada’s volunteers, those who give so much of themselves to others—and who do so quietly, without fanfare or expectation of reward.
How appropriate, given that Mr. LeBlanc has been called “the unassuming governor general” for his modest, low-key manner. He understood—as do each of you—that when it comes to helping others, actions speak louder than words.
Each of you is here today for a simple reason: you care about the well-being of others, and you have acted on that feeling. The range of your activities is quite remarkable, but you share a desire to help others and to make your communities kinder, healthier places in which to live.
And you have done so consistently, over a sustained period of time, leading to your nomination for the Caring Canadian Award by those who know you best.
I am delighted to present you with this award today, and to recognize your dedication to giving.
As governor general and as a father and grandfather, I dream of a smarter, more caring Canada, one in which we all recognize that we have something to give—be it time, talent, money, or simply a generosity of spirit that strives to see the best in others.
Such generosity leads to a wonderful reciprocity of giving, a virtuous circle with which I am sure each of you is familiar.
Let me tell you a story about the phenomenon of reciprocity.
When I was the dean of law at the University of Western Ontario, I made a point of speaking with each graduate individually and I encouraged them to take 10 per cent of their cases pro bono.
And over the years, when I had the opportunity to speak with those graduates about their professional practice, many of them would say to me:
“Dean, I just couldn’t give 10 per cent of my time, but the 2–3 per cent that I was able to give was always the most meaningful.”
I love that story, and I love what it says about human nature and our experience of giving. Not only does giving make a difference to others, it means something to us.
I know that each of you has a deep understanding of the reciprocity of giving.
And so, on behalf of your communities—and indeed all Canadians, who have so much to offer—I am delighted to present to you the Caring Canadian Award.
Congratulations on receiving this honour; and thank you for all that you do for others.