The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Presentation of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award

Ottawa, Ontario, Tuesday, August 30, 2016


It’s a pleasure to join you for this presentation of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Since 2010, I’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of young people who have received this award across Canada. Hearing about their achievements and dreams has inspired me very much. It’s reminded me that a smarter, more caring nation is a goal that we aspire to, and it is achieved through dedication and hard work.

All of you here today have a desire to change things for the better. In fact, you are already making an impact.

The example you’re setting reminds us that we must be innovative and bold to find solutions, while striving to continue the best of our traditions. Above all, you’re showing us that we must work together if we are to succeed.

With that in mind, I would now like to share some knowledge with you in the best way I know how: through a story.

A philosophy professor stood before his class with a number of items in front of him: a large, empty jar, some rocks, a box of pebbles, a box of sand and a can of Coke. When class began, he filled the empty jar with the rocks. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then poured the pebbles into the jar, which filled the open areas between the rocks. He again asked the students if the jar was full. And again, they agreed that it was.

The professor then poured the sand into the jar, filling all the remaining space.

He explained that the demonstration was a metaphor. The rocks represent the important things in life—family, your partner, your health, your children, your education—anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be devastated. The pebbles represent other things that matter, like a house or car. The sand represents everything else, the little things in life.

If you put the sand in the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for life. If you spend all of your energy and time on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important. Pay attention to the things that matter, the things that bring you happiness. There will always be time for the little things. Take care of the rocks first. Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand.

There was one last item on the professor’s desk. One brave student asked, “And what about the can of Coke?”

The professor smiled and answered, “Always take the time to share a cool drink with a friend.”

Now let us look ahead.

We are less than 150 days from the start of Canada’s 150th birthday, and what a celebration it will be!

What will make it extra special is the involvement of people like you who love Canada, who want to be active in making this country a better place. And you will have ample opportunities to do so in the next year.

As you accept the award you have so deservedly earned, I leave you with a question: how will you use your experience with The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award to make this country a better place to live?

As recipients of this award, you have already shown yourselves to be conscientious and engaged citizens. I have no doubt that you will continue to give back to your communities for many years to come.

One thing is certain: your energy and your time are essential to building a smarter, more caring Canada.

On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to thank each of today’s Award recipients and congratulate you on your achievements. You set an example for all of us to follow.