Toronto, Ontario, Wednesday, May 31, 2017
I begin with two quotes, one in Latin, and one by Lewis Carroll!
Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam, and;
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:”
The first Latin phrase translates in English as “They Desire a Better Country” and is the motto of the Order of Canada.
And the second quote, by Lewis Carroll, brings to mind these innovative talks organized by The Walrus Foundation in a wonderful partnership with the Order of Canada, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Thirteen talks in thirteen provinces and territories over the past thirteen weeks. What an extraordinary gift to Canada on the 150th anniversary of Confederation!
Tonight, we wrap up in The Six—also known as Toronto!
The Walrus Talks have been remarkable. More than 100 engaged and enlightened individuals have shared their ideas and insights.
As chancellor and principal companion of the Order of Canada, I am so pleased and grateful to our members who have participated and to the young people who have stepped up to speak and to lead us forward with their energy, their ideas and their passion for change.
Together, they have helped us expand the “they” of “They Desire a Better Country” to a “we”—to “We Desire a Better Country.”
The Order was established in 1967, Canada’s centennial year. Now, appropriately, the gift is renewed, 50 years later during Confederation’s sesquicentennial!
Over the past thirteen weeks, we’ve heard from dozens of members of the Order of Canada and an equal number of youth leaders and visionaries.
Importantly, we’ve heard the perspectives of individuals who inhabit and speak for some of this country’s many diverse cultures.
The talk I attended in Halifax earlier this month was a case in point. There, Halifax poet laureate Rebecca Thomas dazzled with a powerful performance of Canada’s creation story from a Mi’kmaq perspective, and singer Molly Johnson challenged all of us to step out of our cultural comfort zones.
Throughout these talks, we’ve heard some fascinating stories. We have looked back at our histories, at our successes and failures that live on for better and for worse in the present day. We have been compellingly challenged to do better.
We must do better.
I’m so grateful to all who have participated, both as speakers and as listeners.
Though they have addressed real and pressing problems, these talks are essentially optimistic. Together, we have looked ahead to a better future, and a better country.
It’s within our grasp. But it won’t create itself. We have to create that country.
But first we have to dream it, and that’s what these talks have been all about. Remembering, reflecting, learning, dreaming.
What comes next?
It’s a question we must ask, because wonderful as it is to be here, it’s not enough to talk and to dream. We live in a remarkable moment, a time of change, of challenge, of chances to do better. Clearly, Canadians have the ideas and the imagination to go forward.
Clearly, there is a great appetite for change in this country.
Who will deliver it?
Let it be those who dream of a better Canada—more fair and just and inclusive and innovative. Let it be all those who participated in these talks. Let it be each of you here tonight.
Now let me conclude with a third quote, one by George Bernard Shaw that challenges us not just to dream, but to realize that better future.
“Some people see things as they are and wonder ‘Why’. We dream of things that ought to be and ask, ‘Why not?’
Why not indeed? I can’t think of a reason.
Thank you. Have a wonderful evening.