DECEMBER 11, 1980
GUEST OF HONOUR
The Honourable John Aird,
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF ONTARIO
CHAIRMAN The President, Reginald Stackhouse
Your Honour, Your Grace, Your Worship, distinguished head table guests, ladies and gentlemen: this annual Christmas luncheon has become one of the most precious traditions of the club, a time when we turn from our serious business to come for what is more party than meeting.
It is part of Christmas to celebrate. The first Christmas I remember was when I was five years of age. Our house seemed transformed before my eyes with tinsel and coloured paper, a whole tree brought right inside, covered with coloured balls and a silver star on its peak. The day itself was like none other I had ever known, the games, the gifts, the treats. When I went to bed I did not know how I could wait another twelve months for Christmas to come again. I felt as though I had lived through a miracle. And so I had.
Christmas is a miracle. It comes in the winter when the days are short and the nights are dark. It comes when people need to hear a message of hope for the future.
There is no time quite like Christmas. As one writer has phrased it:
We ring the bells when princes are born, or toll a mournful dirge when great men pass away. Nations have their red-letter days, their carnivals and festivals, but once in the year and only once, the whole world stands still to celebrate the advent of a life. Only Jesus of Nazareth claims this worldwide yearly, undying remembrance. You cannot cut Christmas out of the calendar, nor out of the world's heart.
None of us in The Empire Club of Canada would want to be without this festival and the many customs that go with it, especially the way we are greeted each Christmas by the Queen as head of the Commonwealth, this world-wide family of many peoples, many creeds, many races, many nations, all joined together as one family through a common linkage in the Crown.
At the Empire Club we are privileged to receive these greetings from Her Majesty's representative in Ontario. Before asking His Honour to address us, I wish to express to him and to Mrs. Aird our warmest welcome on this their first official vice-regal visit to the club, to assure them of our loyalty to the Crown they represent among us, and to pledge them our support as they begin their demanding duties in our province. Ladies and gentlemen, let us welcome His Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and Mrs. Aird.
THE HONOURABLE JOHN AIRD:
Mr. President, Your Grace, Your Worship, distinguished guests of the head table and friends: Thank you very much indeed, sir, for your kind welcome.
I come here with great pride as Her Majesty's representative. Equally, I come here as a citizen of Canada who happens to live in Ontario. I have, in the past three months since I assumed this position, attended many functions and I have driven many miles, but I have to tell this particular audience here today that no gathering has given me greater pleasure than to be with you at the Empire Club. I think, if I may say so, that the Empire Club and a number of things that we all hold dear at this time of year, which I characterize as "caring and sharing," are what this country is all about and what this occasion is all about. I would like to tell you very briefly that, as I have travelled through this great province, a number of things have been brought home to me.
The people of Ontario care deeply about this country. They are prepared to put out an extra effort to sustain and to preserve it, and they are prepared to make the personal sacrifices that probably are necessary to sustain it. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, in my capacity as one who truly believes in the unity of this great country, I bring you greetings on behalf of Her Majesty and I bring you greetings as a concerned citizen.
Thank you very much, Your Honour, for your presence and your message.
I now call upon Mr. John MacNaughton, Immediate Past President of the club, to make a presentation to Mrs. Aird. (Presentation of bouquet of flowers.)
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my privilege to introduce the distinguished head table party that is honouring this Christmas luncheon.
When Adam Smith wrote the first major study of economics in the modern world, he dwelt on the laws governing the market place. As an explanation for what makes those laws work and maintain order in the market, he referred to what he called "an unseen hand."
To enable the Empire Club to function week after week in the impressive way it does, there are many unseen hands at work, and all too briefly I acknowledge the debt all of us, but especially the president, owe to them.
There is, first of all, a board of directors, forty members strong, their work organized into no fewer than twelve committees.
But strong as that board is, not much would happen were it not for the unseen hands of persons such as my own secretary, Mrs. Marian Holmes, who has added the work of a club president to that of a college principal with professional efficiency and skill. The club could not function also were it not for the experienced administrative ability of our executive secretary, Mrs. Eleanor Cook, and our office secretary, Mrs. Betty McAdam.
It is only fitting that one of the great clubs of the world should meet in one of the great hotels of the world, and I acknowledge the help of the Royal York Hotel's management, and especially the staff who do so much for us at every meeting, led by Adriano Ferreira and Charles Decastro, together with Emilio Fucile and Sammy Constanzo.
If this club is now an institution, so is its renowned pianist, Stanley St. John, without whose music a meeting would not seem complete. Finally, I acknowledge all the committee members who have made this luncheon once again a time to remember, but especially today's chairman, George Stafford, and vice-chairman Michael Stevenson.
Ladies and gentlemen, everyone makes some mistakes, and one of my biggest mistakes in life has been to follow John MacNaughton as President of the club. A person should carefully choose to succeed only failures, and I have done just the opposite.
But on the credit side, I can acknowledge there have been pluses in following John in the President's chair. One of them is getting to know a person whose association I have come to value for many reasons: for counsel offered readily but only when solicited, for support whenever assistance is needed, for humour whenever a cloud of stress appears on the horizon.
It is my privilege now to ask John to come to the podium and accept an illuminated scroll signed by the Governor General of Canada, as Honorary President of the club, and myself expressing the thanks of the club for a presidency that gave us one of the finest years we have had.
Mr. President, Your Honour, Mrs. Aird, distinguished head table guests and ladies and gentlemen of The Empire Club of Canada.
Thank you, Dr. Stackhouse. Thank you firstly for your generous remarks; and if I may, I would like to acknowledge them jointly with my wife, Gail. As I said in my annual report to our general meeting last spring my Empire Club year was very much a shared experience for Gail and me and I can assure you it is appropriate that she participate fully in the kind words of appreciation you have just expressed.
Thank you also for this scroll. I will keep it, I will hang it in a place of prominence and I will treasure it. In preparing for this moment by reviewing the remarks of my predecessors on previous similar occasions I noted that many past presidents have referred to this scroll as a graduation diploma. That metaphor is especially exciting to me as a United Churchman because, as many of you know, our current President, Dr. Stackhouse, is Principal of Wycliffe College, an Anglican school of divinity, and when I get home and read the fine print on this diploma I may discover that I've been ordained. The Empire Club prides itself on being non-partisan; it may soon be able to describe itself as ecumenical.
Whatever the potential theological implications of this scroll, it is certainly apt to suggest that the process involved in obtaining it is an education. The education comes from having the opportunity to meet and to know our distinguished guest speakers and to listen to their addresses; it comes from the realization that public speaking as an art form is not dead and that through an organization like the Empire Club which encourages it, the art can flourish; and it comes from the rediscovery of the verity that many hands make the work light. Nowhere is this truer than in our club where past presidents, officers, directors, members and staff make common cause of perpetuating our club as Canada's leading public speaking forum.
It has been a privilege to be your President and I thank you for it. I also thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this elegant scroll which will serve me as a reminder of all the reasons that I will continue to have respect and affection for The Empire Club of Canada. Thank you again and Merry Christmas to all.
One of the treats of attending meetings last year was hearing John's superb introductions. The other was getting to know John's even more superb wife. And I now ask our First Vice-President, Brigadier Steven Andrunyk, to make a presentation to Gail MacNaughton. (Presentation of bouquet of flowers.)
No part of the club's life and work is more important than the Empire Club Foundation whose many responsibilities include funding the publication of our yearbook. I now invite its President, Major General Bruce Legge, to make a presentation to His Honour.
Mr. Chairman, Your Honour, Mrs. Aird, Your Grace, Your Worship, the "Reverend" John MacNaughton, distinguished guests and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: The Honourable David Crombie is one of our ilk, a patriotic and loyalist Canadian who has served Canada with great distinction like the ladies and gentlemen of this room. He tells this lovely parable:
Let us give thanks that we do not grow bananas in Canada, because my fear is that with the way things are going, we would make a rotten banana republic. First, we would have a federalprovincial task force to study the constitutional implications of the banana. Then we would have a royal commission to decide whether the bananas should be labelled bilingually or unilingually. Then we would have to have a parliamentary committee to decide whether the bananas should be weighed imperially or metrically.
Your Honour, I agree with Mr. Crombie that we would be a rotten banana republic. I present you with this golden package, which does not contain Christmastide gold and frankincense and myrrh. Of greater worth are three recent yearbooks of The Empire Club of Canada and The Best Talk in Town by Scott Young and Margaret Hogan. In the seventy-fifth year of the club, under the presidency of Mr. Peter Hermant, we were the only public forum to take a strong position on unity. We submitted a brief to the Robarts-Pepin commission on the constitution.
Our feeling is that it would be essential for our way and quality of life that the system of parliamentary democracy, recognizing the Queen of Canada and the apolitical structure of Governor General and Lieutenant Governors, be maintained, both from a traditional and practical point of view.
These were strong words, and not hollow, of our seventy-fifth year and indicate that The Empire Club of Canada stands for something as well as being Canada's leading forum.
The next year, Brigadier General Lewis's yearbook, contains the seventy-fifth anniversary index and catalogue of infinite worth which lists every speaker and every subject discussed at this club since 1903. There is also continuity for your collection by including the handsome volume for Mr. John MacNaughton's year. Indeed, as the lawyers say in prestigious law firms like Aird and Berlis, these books are the sine qua non of a great library--without these books there is no library.
May you find The Best Talk in Town both wise and amusing as it presents in one volume some of the issues that have stirred Canadians and concerned The Empire Club of Canada from its very beginning.
Above all, Your Honour, I would like to assure you and Mrs. Aird that the members of this club will happily support you in your office and in your person.
Thank you for accepting these publications of the Empire Club Foundation.
Christmas is a time for singing, and has been since an angelic choir proclaimed the Nativity to shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem.
We will have a real Christmas musical treat today in hearing the presentation of the Hart House Chorus under the distinguished direction of Professor Denise Narcisse-Mair, accompanied by Marion Ford.
About 1923 a group of undergraduates began meeting on Sunday evenings in the Music Room of Hart House to sing college songs. They formed themselves into what were first called the Songsters, and later the Glee Club. Just nine years ago, the Glee Club was regrouped as the Hart House Chorus, with both male and female singers.
Under whatever name, however, they remain part of the Hart House tradition, a source of pleasure and inspiration to their own community as they will be to ours today. It is my pleasure to invite the Hart House Chorus to sing with us now.
A Program of Christmas music was presented by the Hart House Chorus.
On behalf of this great assembly, I thank the Warden of Hart House, the director and members of this brilliant Chorus for giving the Empire Club a Christmas to remember. The Chorus has made this an hour of joy and gladness so that we can leave one another believing:
The music we have heard has been more than music,
The bread we have broken more than bread. My warmest Christmas greetings to all of you, and in the new year may each day fulfil the Old Testament promise: His mercies are new every morning.
According to the club's tradition, we will close by singing "O Canada," led by the Hart House Chorus. Kindly remain standing while the Vice-Regal party leaves the room.