Presentation of Decorations for Bravery
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The Citadelle, Tuesday February 8, 2011
My wife, Sharon, and I would like to welcome you to the Citadelle. Steeped in history, this place, overlooking the Saint Lawrence River and sitting high atop Cape Diamant, has been the second official residence of Canada’s governors general since the end of the 19th century.
Since my appointment as governor general, we have met extraordinary Canadians from across our great country. They have touched us to the core. They have inspired us. They have humbled us. And they have made us proud to be Canadians.
We are committed to sharing their stories with all Canadians. Sharing their lives to challenge all of us to a higher level of public service. Sharing lessons from their experiences to motivate all of us to work together to shape Canada into a truly smart and caring nation.
We have met members of our Canadian Forces and their families who have sacrificed everything for our freedom. I had the privilege of presenting the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment Battle Group.
We have met volunteers who have devoted their time and talents to assist those less fortunate than they. Others have volunteered their time for the betterment of their communities.
We have met children who have tackled the most serious of health issues, while raising money and awareness so others might not have to suffer, too.
And we have met men and women who have undertaken compelling acts of bravery and courage.
Men and women like those whom we are here to honour today.
I have often wondered how I would react in a situation where someone else’s life is at risk. Could I summon the necessary courage to meet hardship, accident, evil, and danger head‑on?
A question like this is almost impossible to answer. In the abstract, many of us might answer with resignation. With fear. With doubt. And with the deepest misgivings about ourselves and our abilities. Perhaps even some of you have grappled with this.
Nevertheless, at those critical moments when nothing else mattered, you did not wait for an answer. You acted. You persevered. You endured. And you risked everything to give someone else a chance to see another day.
What inspires someone to act with such bravery? What motivates someone to run headlong into harm’s way, when others might run the other way? What gives someone the calm and presence of mind to take over a situation in which others might panic? What fortifies someone to accomplish feats of courage that require more inner strength than others could ever possess?
Where does this kind of bravery—this kind of courage—come from?
I believe it comes from the deepest form of love any human being could possibly demonstrate for someone else. A love so rich, so pure, so deep, so strong that one would be willing to lay down his or her life for a total stranger, a neighbour or a friend.
C. S. Lewis, a renowned philosopher and author, once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
You were at your testing points. You were in those moments of time when you had to gather every ounce of your courage, every ounce of your compassion, and every ounce of your resolve to try to save another person’s life.
In some cases, you succeeded. In others, tragically, you could not.
On behalf of all Canadians, I am here to commend your courage, honour your bravery, praise your heroic deeds, and recognize your humble hearts.
And I am also here to share your pain. To help you treasure your memories of those loved ones who could not be with us today.
I began by talking about those extraordinary Canadians whom we have met over the last few months. We want you to know that we count each and every one of you among that group.
We will always be inspired by your stories. We will always remember what you have done for your families, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and even for people you did not know. And I will always challenge myself, my children and my grandchildren to embody the kind of sacrificial love, the kind of true bravery, the kind of unadulterated courage you demonstrated on their behalf.