Launch of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy Campaign
Rideau Hall, Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Welcome to Rideau Hall. It is an honour for me to receive the first poppy in this year’s campaign.
A poppy is a symbol that people across Canada, and even around the world, recognize, respect and understand.
A poppy is a symbol of the men and women who sacrificed everything to defend our freedom on the land, in the sky and on the sea.
A poppy is a symbol of the fact that too many of those men and women never made it home.
And a poppy is a symbol that must call us to action, that must motivate each and every one of us to a deeper level of public service, so that the lives and legacies of those men and women are never forgotten.
During the dark days of World War II, Winston Churchill spoke of the role that every man, woman and child could play to forge victory and secure peace.
In December 1941, he addressed the Parliament of Canada. After reviewing Canada’s valiant contributions to the war effort, he called for an even greater resolve to do whatever more was possible or required. He said:
“In this strange, terrible world war there is a place for everyone, man and woman, old and young, hale and halt; service in a thousand forms is open. . . . The mine, the factory, the dockyard, the salt sea waves, the fields to till, the home, the hospital, the chair of the scientist, the pulpit of the preacher – from the highest to the humblest tasks, all are of equal honour; all have their part to play.”
His words should not be taken as simply words spoken at a pivotal time in our nation’s history.
Indeed, the truth of his words rings as loudly and clearly today as it ever did, as Canadians continue to fight for peace and security around the world.
Churchill’s words remind us that the “many” remain indebted to the sacrifices of the “few.” And that we, as the “many,” must continue to serve in whatever capacity we can to honour those who have stood against evil on our behalf.
In this way, his words reinforce the symbol of the poppy all the more, for poppies compel us to continue to educate our children about the price at which our freedom was bought. To ensure that new Canadians understand the values on which our great country was built. And to care for our ex-service men and women, treating them with the respect they deserve.
I know this is what you and all of the members of the Royal Canadian Legion continue to do.
Thank you for devoting the proceeds of the Poppy Campaign to providing food, shelter, medical assistance and post-secondary bursaries to Canada’s veterans and their families. For partnering with other organizations to encourage the teaching of history in our schools. And for spreading the concept of remembrance to generations that have been relatively untouched by war through pilgrimages of remembrance.
I will continue to work with you, hand-in-hand, encouraging Canadians to a more committed level of service. A level of service that remembers those who have gone before us; that sustains those who are still here; and that supports those who continue to give of themselves to keep our country, and our world, glorious and free.