Chosen by the students to be the inaugural speaker for the Fountain Memorial Lecture series, Former Governor General the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean spoke at King’s College on Monday, to a packed auditorium and overflow room. The lecture was expansive and fascinating – I can’t attempt to summarize it all.
The power of communication and dialogue – which is, of course, of tremendous import to CCEPA – was a theme throughout. During her lecture, and in the question period that followed Michaëlle Jean sympathized with the ongoing “Occupy” protests in Canada and around the world. I would say that she also articulated the importance of actually talking and writing to your elected MPs etc. She called this process the “lifeblood of democracy.” Speaking now only for myself: I think some people may be a little too ready to accept the kind of cynical dead-end that writes ‘the system’ off as totally unresponsive or irredeemably corrupted. Democracy dosen’t only occur every few years at the ballot box; if you have an issue, you should absolutely pester your elected representative (and the brilliant thing about this is you can never ‘drive them to distraction’) – whether you voted for them or not.
This isn’t to say anything against the Occupy movement – I just hope they occupy some inboxes as well.
Another important theme was the tendency to turn our collective gaze towards foreign problems at the expense of our own; the “developing world right here in Canada.” She tried to show NO RUNNING WATER – a series from The Winnipeg Free Press. Unfortunately, there were some technical difficulties. It’s well worth a look. As she said, there are no “aboriginal problems” – only Canadian problems.
In addition to being the UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti, Michaëlle Jean runs a charity devoted to supporting young people in Canada. Their latest project is a partnership with EQ3, GENERATION ART. Probably my favorite quote from the lecture? “Art is about saving lives.” I’ve zero artistic talent, but I’m going to make an effort to get some friends to submit.
For those interested in hearing more from Michaëlle Jean, CBC Radio has a short interview which addresses some of the themes of the lecture here.