Presentation of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Awards
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Halifax, Wednesday, June 1, 2011
It is my pleasure to present the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Awards to so many deserving young men and women. And it is especially fitting that the Award is being bestowed here at Pier 21.
The Award is about inspiring Canada’s young people to make a difference. To reach higher and dream bigger. To embark upon a life-long journey of community service, skills development, physical fitness, expedition, exploration and adventure.
Pier 21 represents many of those things too. Between 1928 and 1971, one million people passed through its doors. Immigrants. Refugees. War brides. Orphans. Evacuees. People desperately in need of a safe, peaceful and prosperous country in which they could build a new home.
For them, Pier 21 was a place of welcome and hope. A place of new beginnings. A place where they could dare to dream about a brighter future. A place in which they could start to conquer seemingly insurmountable odds as they determined to do what they could to share their gifts, talents and skills in their new communities.
Just imagine, for a moment, the sights and sounds as all of those people moved through these doors. As they walked off the ships that had carried them across fair oceans and stormy seas. As they clutched baskets, bags and trunks full of precious memories and the basic necessities of life. As they called to one another in anxious, excited and overwhelmed foreign tongues. As they reassured crying babies, searched for missing children, and smiled at those in need of a friendly face. As they bravely tried to figure out where to go and what to do next. As they breathed sighs of relief, whispered prayers of thanksgiving, and sang for joy upon finally being admitted to Canada.
As recipients of this Award, you are joining the multitude who passed through Pier 21 to make a lasting difference in our country. Just as many of them did, you are demonstrating that you can dream big dreams. That you can set lofty goals. That you are ready to challenge yourselves, and to take initiative and responsibility for your successes. That you have what it takes to persevere when times get tough. That you care enough to give back to your communities, your country and your world.
Canada would not be what it is today without the many cultures, ethnicities and traditions that people brought with them from around the world when they made this country their home. Nor would it be the same without the contributions you have already made in your lives. You are enriching the very fabric of our nation, just as immigrants have done over the course of Canada’s history.
On behalf of all Canadians, I sincerely congratulate and commend you for that.
C.S. Lewis, a renowned philosopher and author once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
You remind me that a person is never too young either.
Some may tell you that, “you are too young to make a difference. You’re not ready to start now. Wait until you are older—then you can begin.” But I would tell you differently.
Indeed, many of those who arrived at this very Pier were young. They were children, teens and young adults who came to Canada with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and hope in their hearts. And many of them went on to become some of our country’s best and brightest.
They confirmed, just as you are confirming, that mental or physical ability or social circumstances should never bar someone from achieving his or her goals and dreams.
And so, I would encourage you to never let anyone look down on you just because you are young.
Instead, continue to set an example for those around you. An example in how you speak of your experiences, aspirations and points of view. In how you love when you serve others in need. In how you learn by making the most of your education, extra-curricular activities and jobs.
And most importantly, in how you live as you embrace challenge. Embark on adventure. Encourage others. And do what St. Catherine of Siena intended when she said, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.”