The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
Speech on the Occasion of a Reception Hosted by the Ambassador of Canada to the Slovak Republic

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Bratislava, Friday, November 28, 2008

The cultures of the world are all interwoven.

Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, celebrating his 100th birthday today, wrote that all cultures are the result “of brewing, of borrowing, of mixing; a process that has not ceased, though always with differing rhythms, since the beginning of time.”

Cultures speak to us of home and horizons, of differences and encounters, of originality and universality.

Cultures opened borders long before markets ever did, as women and men set out to explore the world.

Cultures redefine the world by opening minds rather than discouraging ideas.

Cultures reject all censorship in order to create.

Cultures bring together our sense of belonging to the place of our roots and a desire to explore the world and expand our horizons.

Cultures enable the body and the senses to triumph over the tyranny of any system.

Cultures always give shape and meaning to the world, even when they shake up our most deeply held beliefs and challenge traditions.

Yes, cultures are the ideal part of the human experience.

As I stated two days ago, during a dinner held in our honour by the President of Slovakia, cultures are the most powerful instruments of civilization, and never has this been more true than today, as we continue to be plagued by a standardization of the ways in which we express ourselves and the barbarism of one-track thinking.

In these uncertain times, cultures remind us that it is always possible to reinvent the world, just as it has always been possible for artists to find new inspiration to create.

Cultures bring us together so much more than they separate us, and through the questions they raise and emotions they stir up, they unite all of humankind.

My husband, philosopher and filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, and I firmly believe that cultures speak a language that transcends any barriers we may put up between us and touch that profoundly human part in each of us.

Which is why we are so delighted to be here with you today to celebrate through culture everything that brings us closer to one another, and to offer our sincerest thanks to the members of the Slovak National Ballet who will be giving us such a beautiful illustration of this, carried on the music of one of Canada’s greatest composers, André Mathieu.

Thank you, so very much, to artists everywhere and to you for believing, as we do, that the world can move forward only through encounters, just as we are about to experience this evening.