Oration | Address to Convocation |
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was born in Shawinigan, Quebec, and attended school in Shawinigan, Joliette and Trois- Rivières, before heading to Laval University to study law.
He was called to the bar in 1958, and joined the law firm of Chrétien, Landry, Deschênes, Trudel and Normand, in Shawinigan. He served as director of the bar of Trois-Rivières in 1962-63.
Mr. Chrétien was first elected to the House of Commons in 1963 representing the constituency of Saint-Maurice- Laflèche.
Between 1965 and 1986, Mr. Chrétien served as parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson; minister of state attached to the minister of Finance; minister of National Revenue; minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development; preside
nt of the Treasury Board; minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce; minister of Finance; minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and minister of state for social development; minister of Energy, Mines and Resources; and deputy prime minister an
d secretary of state for External Affairs.
Mr. Chrétien resigned from the House of Commons on Feb. 27, 1986. From March 1986 to June 1990 he was a counsel with the law firm of Lang Michener Lawrence and Shaw with offices in Ottawa, Toronto
and Vancouver. He was also a senior adviser with Gordon Capital Corporation in Montreal.
In 1990, Mr. Chrétien was elected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
He was elected member of Parliament in the Dec. 1990, by-election in the riding of Beauséjour (New Brunswick) and was sworn in as leader of the opposition in the House of Commons later that month.
He was re-elected member of Parliament for the riding of St-Maurice in 1993, when his party won a majority of seats in the House of Commons. He was sworn in as prime minister of Canada on Nov. 4, 1993.
Mr. Chrétien will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.
Oration honouring Dr. Jean Chrétien
Dr. Annette Staveley, university orator
Another prime minister, in another time, said there were three categories in the Darwinian scheme of evolutionary biology that were in greater need of sanctuary than any other groups: rare birds, wildflowers and prime ministers.
Mr. Chancellor, for centuries, before Confederation, the islands, bays, headlands and barrens of Newfoundland have sheltered endangered species, providing abundant protection for the eagle and the great white heron, the purple Calypso orchid and the wh
ite grasses-of-Parnassus. And more recently, our current prime minister, the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, has been spotted on the ski slopes of Corner Brook, beside the rivers in Labrador, on the snow banks of Fogo and even in a pool-room in Ladle Cove
. There are no sightings, as yet, on the fairways of Gander, Hatchet Cove or the Salmonier river — courses known to be favourite haunts of the species. However, once he is released from these ceremonies, he will no doubt seek these natural habitats. Until
then, he must accept the formal classification by the Senate that he now belongs to this large and distinct community of graduates from Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Mr. Chancellor, you may think it presumptuous to offer this rare individual the protective cover of an honorary degree — after all, in an earlier mutation, as minister of Northern Affairs, he created 10 national parks, including Newfoundland's unique G
ros Morne National Park, where the human species lives in harmony with the creatures of the air and the flowers of the meadow. And, throughout his remarkable career, Jean Chrétien has exhibited that pragmatic idealism, that liberal energy, that capacity f
or hard work, and loyalty necessary in the political environment where only the fittest survive in the sometimes random processes of selection in our complex, bilingual, constitutional democracy. Even amid the reversions and transitions of political life,
he has shown the adaptability and longevity that ensures the species does not become extinct. But most importantly, his will to endure has been sustained by his love of Canada, nourished by his parents and sustained by his incomparable soul-mate, Aline,
and his children and grandchildren.
So, Mr. Chancellor, while we invite Jean Chrétien into the real world of the university, the world of the intellect, away from the confused illusions of the political world, we do so mindful that he needs no sanctuary. Clear-sightedly, he has stated th
at politics can be “frustrating, tough and mean,” but through it all he has held fast to the liberal desires to create a civil sanctuary for a multinational society, with a repatriated Constitution and an enviable Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Also, he
connects with the poet who tells us that the centre cannot hold, unless it attends to the outlying regions. In supporting the passage of Bill C-29 to protect Newfoundland's offshore fishing rights and in endorsing Newfoundland's central role in offshore e
nergy development, he shows his understanding of the struggle for existence in predominantly rural communities. For it is here in the communities of “Tide and wind and crag/Sea-weed and sea-shell” that the story is told “of eternal pathways of fire” and “
of dreams that survive the night.”
So, Mr. Chancellor, it is a privilege to welcome the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien into our society because he has advanced Canadian unity, not Canadian uniformity, and he has promoted the ideals of a civilized human community within this vast and bea
utiful, but morally indifferent, Canadian landscape. And for those who doubt the evolutionary endurance or longevity of this species liberalis, they should consider Jean Chrétien's progenitors: Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who was Prime Minister for 15 years and
his friend, another Liberal Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, who in his long career in politics was Prime Minister — four times.
Therefore, Mr. Chancellor, without much further ado, I present to you the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada, for the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.
First, I'm very happy that for a doctorate you changed the procedure a bit because I was looking at the fun that John Crosbie would have had if I had been forced to go on my knees in front of him!
Second, I owe a big debt to the Memorial University because when I was a student, I ran to be the president of Canadian University Liberal Federation. And I was to win, but at the last minute, a francophone decided to run against me because I could not
speak English. And I was proposed by Memorial University, St. John's; Newfoundland backed me up when I was unilingual. I wish Canada would have done the same thing for you!
Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, my first thoughts today are for my mother and father. Education was everything to them and the sight of two of their sons receiving such honours, on the same day, would fill their hearts with enormous pride.
In the case of Michel, it would come as no surprise. In my case, I'm telling you, they would have been amazed!
The influence of my parents was profound. We were the first generation of the Chrétien family to receive a higher education, something I know I have in common with many of you. More, they made the idea of a Chrétien going far in school a family expecta
tion, not an exception.
In that way, we also have something in common with the fundamental mission of Memorial University, which has been to give generations of young Newfoundlanders the first taste of higher education. I want to express my deep appreciation to Memorial Unive
rsity, not only for extending this honorary degree, but also for making sure I will not receive it after the members of CODCO and 22 Minutes!
As you may know, I run into Mary Walsh from time to time and I'm a big fan. And I know that Mary, the Warrior Princess, is a big fan of mine too! But she and her friends would have been a very tough act to follow.
I am delighted to offer congratulations to the first graduating class of the 21st century at Memorial University. For all of you, this is a time for personal celebration. You have worked hard, very hard, with the abiding support of your families, you h
ave set high goals and achieved them. The future is at your door. It inspires wonder and hope and no doubt, just a bit of fear as well.
I'm sure you're getting a little tired of the free advice that is being offered these days, so I won't take long. But before you run out to your parties, I would like to share the excitement that I feel for your future and to express my own personal ho
pes for the path you will travel along the way. I'm excited, not just because you are graduates of one of the best universities in Canada, but also because you are graduating at a time of renewed optimism and confidence in Newfoundland and Labrador and ri
ght across Canada.
It is no secret that Newfoundland and Labrador has seen more than her share of economic hardship over the years. Too often, her people have felt left out of the great Canadian success story, the victim of a difficult geography and limited opportunity.
Far too many of her sons and daughters have felt compelled to follow their dream elsewhere. Times are changing. The economic tide is turning. A new Atlantic wave is rising. And Newfoundland and all of Canada are riding high.
You are leaving school at a time when job opportunities for young people are more plentiful than they have been in a very long time. Indeed, it is a time of boundless opportunity in Canada. We are at the crest of the new global economy. Our people have
embraced the power of the Internet, reaching out across borders and time zones, across cyberspace. Our researchers are pioneering new technologies and processes. Our entrepreneurs are creatively showcasing new products and services. Our exporters are con
quering new markets.
Day after day, there is new evidence of the rising power of knowledge, skills, and innovation, and a declining importance of geography as the key to prosperity. Governments across the country are making substantial investments designed to make Canada a
leader in the knowledge-based economy. I am very proud of the policy initiatives we have taken at the federal level, to make Canada a place where our best and brightest want to stay. And where the best and brightest from around the world want to come.
As graduates in science, you have taken the steps you need to get ready for the new economy and I wish you well. But as you leave here, full of ambition, I want you to remember that you have more value to society than simply the skills you have learned
. You have far greater worth than can be measured simply by the number of hours that you work for pay or personal contribution you make to the GDP.
La recherche du succès matériel est vieille comme le monde, mais elle fait accentuer dans la nouvelle économie, où il semble facile de s'enrichir très vite, où on dirait qu'on ne peut ouvrir un journal ou un téléviseur sans apprendre qu'un autre jeune
a fait fortune du jour au lendemain. S'il y en a parmi vous qui optent pour la voie de l'entrepreneurship, je vous applaudis. Le Canada sera là pour vous encourager, et pour récompenser richement vos réalisations.
Le succès personnel est certain, pourtant. Il est important d'assurer la sécurité matérielle de votre famille, une économie et une société fortes vont de paire. Mais n'oubliez jamais d'écouter aussi votre coeur pour savoir ce qui compte vraiment dans l
Now Brian, you want to come and translate!
But as you all understood, I will keep on!
Success has many meanings but there is a special place in our affections for those so-called ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Who see the common good as their bottom line, who quietly and with abiding grace make the lives of their fellow ci
tizens better in countless ways, who offer a helping hand.
When I was growing up, my parents taught me and taught my brothers and sisters that I have to learn to live beyond my fingertips, to understand that I was part of a greater whole, a community. And that I had a fundamental obligation to support and sust
ain that community if I was to expect support in return. Our parents saved up every extra penny to give us the gift of a better education. Perhaps that is why we have always been so aware of our responsibility to give something back. That was not just my
lesson, that is the lesson of Canada and the secret of our shared success.
In the new economy, that means living beyond our own computer keyboard, our own website, and our stock quotes. Franklin Roosevelt once said, it is an unfortunate fact of life that a full pocketbook grows much larger than an empty stomach. Reading the n
ewspapers today, I know exactly what he meant. I reject the view of those for whom social justice has no place in the economy of the 21st century. I reject the views of those for whom an empty stomach is the fault of the hungry. I reject the views of thos
e who say that there are two Canadas: an old backward Canada and a new dynamic Canada.
We use such narrow ideology to justify dividing Canadians from each other. To justify the retreat from traditional Canadian values, values of tolerance, compassion, and generosity. Values that have made Canada the best country in the world. Where we sh
are prosperity, where we share opportunity, where we strive to make sure that no region or individual is left behind. We have not always succeeded in this effort as we would have liked, but our commitment to it, as a nation, is unshakeable.
Newfoundland and Labrador is poised for an era of prosperity it has never seen. And I look and I know that the people of this province are looking forward to the day when they can share their prosperity with those in need, just as Canadians reached out
to them in their time of need. That is what Canada is all about.
My friends, your future is endless with possibilities. You have many paths to choose from, but I hope that some of you choose public service. You will never regret it. I have been in Canadian public life for 37 years and I tell you, that my efforts hav
e been rewarded in ways that far exceed our material gains, any material gains I might have made in private life. I ask you to keep that in mind.
Again, on my behalf, on behalf of my wife Aline who is with me, on behalf of my brother and my sister-in-law, and the rest of my family I thank you very much. And to all of you young Canadians, you're very proud today. You have the right to be so. And
again, I offer my warmest congratulations to you and to your families on this wonderful day.
Thank you very much, merci beaucoup.