Vol 39 No 5
Nov. 2, 2006
News & Notes
Out and About
Papers & Presxentations
Nov. 23, 2006
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By Jillian Terry
Trudeau talk sparks thoughts of civic engagement
A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to hear Justin Trudeau, son of late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, speak to a class of Political Science 1010 students. I’ll admit that, at first, I was a little skeptical: the son of a former Liberal prime minister giving a talk at a university during a highly-contested Liberal leadership race? Sounds like the perfect opportunity for a young man with an influential father to publicly back his preferred candidate. But, as I soon found out, Justin Trudeau just isn’t that kind of guy.
When asked about what the name Trudeau meant to them, many students had a lot to say about one of the most famous political families in Canada’s history. “It’s a huge name in federalist politics,” said 18-year-old Justin Dunphy, who was excited to learn about the visit of the younger Trudeau. A 22-year-old political science major said he thought of “the tenacity of one man to unite a country on principles,” and that “Trudeau is more than a name. It represents hope and strength, and the ability to change.”
Many young Canadians recognize Justin Trudeau as a man who, at the young age of 29, gave a moving eulogy at his father’s funeral in 2000. Many of us were born after the Trudeau era and all we know of charismatic Pierre is that he liked to wear roses on his lapel, and was the one who uttered the quote so often seen in Canadian History textbooks that “there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” Although many of Trudeau’s accomplishments remain important to Canada of the 21st century, the youth of our country are largely unaware of how innovative and ground-breaking the 15th prime minister really was.
It seems to me as if Justin Trudeau has inherited much of his father’s innovative spirit. In the 50 minutes that he spoke, Justin stressed the importance of leadership and participation among Canada’s youth. He said that young people need to start thinking of themselves as “leaders of today,” a strong statement that has stuck with me since I first heard it.
Ever since we were old enough to leave the confines of our elementary school classrooms at lunchtime, teachers and parents have been encouraging their children to get involved in their schools, churches and communities. It’s been a routine lecture that everyone has heard at some point throughout their school career, and in high school it becomes even more important to participate, because it may help decide whether or not you get accepted to the university of your choice. Once you’ve gotten here, however, involvement and activism take on a different quality: instead of wanting to just participate, it has become more important to make a difference.
Here at Memorial, there are dozens of clubs and societies that are dedicated to helping to improve some facet of society. From Students for Literacy and Engineers without Borders to the Radical Media Society, students from many academic backgrounds come together to organize fundraising and social events in the hopes of initiating a change. Which is exactly what we need, according to Justin Trudeau, and finding it doesn’t necessarily involve going into politics or writing a book. By exchanging ideas and talking about how our towns, our country and the world can be a better place, we can make change happen.
So as I sat in the crowded lecture hall listening to Justin Trudeau’s message of civic participation and involvement in the world around us, it became clear that this sort of youth leadership is found all over the university, and when wondering what you can do to make a difference, it doesn’t take much more than looking towards any of the charitable organizations located on-campus and around town. Being a leader isn’t hard at all all it takes is a little innovation.