DECEMBER 13, 1979
GUEST OF The Honourable Pauline McGibbon, HONOUR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF ONTARIO
CHAIRMAN The President, John A. MacNaughton
Your Honour, distinguished head table guests, ladies and gentlemen of The Empire Club of Canada: Today is a very happy one in the annual cycle of events in the life of The Empire Club of Canada. It is our Christmas Party, our yearly homecoming when our members invite their families, their friends, and their business and professional associates to join in a luncheon to celebrate the approaching holiday season and to rejoice through music in the birth in Bethlehem of the Prince of Peace almost two thousand years ago.
Our annual Christmas Party is a time for nostalgia; it is also one for looking forward to challenges and responsibilities in the next year and beyond. But mostly it is an interlude in our busy lives when we can savour the present--the fellowship, the good food and the beautiful music that are traditional to Empire Club Christmases.
Elizabeth Bowen expressed a similar thought in "Home for Christmas":
Again Christmas: abiding point of return. Set apart by its mystery, mood and magic, the season seems in a way to stand outside time. All that is dear, that is lasting, renews its hold on us: we are home again.
Helen Keller described the potential of the enthusiasm for Christmas with the following words:
Blessed by the Christmas sunshine our nature, perhaps long leafless brings forth new love, new kindness, new mercy, new compassion.
It is in that spirit of renewal and growth that we join here together this afternoon to wish one another a Merry Christmas.
To bring Christmas greetings to us all from the Queen of Canada we are honoured to have with us for the fifth time our Honorary Vice President, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable Pauline McGibbon.
I recall at a state dinner on the evening of June 29 of this year listening to the band of the Royal Regiment play "Amazing Grace." Her Honour sat at this very table, at the right hand of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The two were both focused intently on the piper who was spotlighted as he stood in that gallery.
The Queen Mother and Her Honour were silhouettes, equally poised, equally warm, equally inspiring. It was evident then that Her Honour, Pauline McGibbon, was the exemplum of what a Lieutenant Governor should be.
She is in the tradition of the Royal Family, whose Queen she represents, and we all admire her greatly for the dignity with which she fulfils her role.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to call on her now: Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Pauline McGibbon.
Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor, as the representative in Ontario of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, brought greetings and best wishes for
a happy Christmas to all members of the Empire Club.
I now call on General Reginald Lewis to present a bouquet of flowers to Her Honour. (Presentation of bouquet of roses.)
Ladies and gentlemen: It is now my pleasure to introduce to you those who have honoured us today by their presence at our head table.
If you will permit me, I wish to depart from our usual order and ask two guests to stand together, namely Margaret Hogan, formerly a weekly columnist
with The Globe and Mail and now staff writer for Imperial Oil, and Scott Young, who is the author and coauthor of twenty-five books, a man who has written a daily column in Toronto newspapers since the 1950s.
We are especially pleased that these two writers are with us today because together they are the co-authors of a book entitled The Best Talk in Town which is based on the speeches given over seventy-five years at luncheon meetings of the Empire Club. It is a delightful book which I recommend to all of you and I invite you now to join with me in a special welcome to the co-authors whose skill and hard work has produced it.
My next statement will sound like a commercial, but I assure you that it is merely a public service announcement. The club has arranged to have a supply of books available in the hallway after this luncheon for those of you who wish copies for your own library or for Christmas gifts.
The other head table guests will now be introduced and I ask that you withhold your applause until all have been presented. Since our gathering today is a family affair, they will be introduced by name only.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Empire Club is an institution. Like all institutions it succeeds because many people, on their own initiative, do the work that must be done and can be depended upon to do it efficiently, tactfully, and on time. Unquestionably the two most important in this regard are our executive secretary, Eleanor Cook, and our office secretary, Betty McAdam. I am pleased to acknowledge before this large audience my personal indebtedness and that of the club to them. Mrs. Cook and Mrs. McAdam are truly the sine qua non of the Empire Club.
For my personal secretary, Ann Krallisch, the day-today work of keeping an Empire Club President on top of the many details of the current program is sometimes an unfair additional work load, but in keeping with her Scottish-Presbyterian upbringing she
budgets her time carefully and all is done with thoroughness and professionalism. My thanks go out to her today.
Several times during our fall program the attendance at our meetings has been larger than anticipated and out of nowhere appear tables, chairs, linens, cutlery and plates and hearty meals for the overflow. The magicians who perform this feat are the staff of The Royal York Hotel, in particular Adriano Ferreira and Charles Decastro along with Emilio Fucile and Sammy Constanzo. We thank them for their years of excellent service to the club.
To Stanley St. John, our club pianist, whose music we have enjoyed for many years, we say thank you for your continuing support and interest.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank George Stafford who for many years has been chairman of our Christmas Luncheon Committee and this year again, with help from his Vice-Chairman Michael Stevenson, he has attended to all the details that annually make this luncheon a success.
Ladies and gentlemen, one year ago at the Empire Club Christmas luncheon our then President, General Reginald Lewis, described his predecessor, Peter Hermant, as "a man I envy very much." He went on to say, "The reason I envy him is because he is immediate Past President." While I realize now that General Lewis was sincere in the sentiments he expressed I confess to you that at the time I was suspicious. You see, I had read the words of French novelist Edouard Daladier who in 1944 made the following observation: "The weakness of democracies is that once a general has been built up in public opinion it is impossible to remove him."
Mindful of those words, one year ago I wondered whether the wide respect and rave reviews Reg Lewis was winning for himself through the excellence of his stewardship of this organization might persuade him to declare himself the Empire Club's President for Life.
After now experiencing eight months of the rigorous duties of the presidency of the Empire Club, I am certain that such a thought would never have crossed his mind.
Ladies and gentlemen, leaving the joking aside, I am sure you will agree with me that it was our good fortune that in our seventy-fifth year, a year of celebration, we had as our President a man as dedicated to the traditions and high standards of this great club as Reg Lewis.
The Lewis yearbook, which was an anniversary edition with an exhaustive index of over two thousand speakers, arranged alphabetically and by topic, is an important piece of Canadiana and it will stand for many years as a tribute to his outstanding season as our President.
Each year the Christmas Party is the event at which we honour our Past President by presenting him with a commemorative scroll signed by our Honorary President, the Governor General. It is my pleasure to present this scroll to Reg Lewis with the thanks of 2,500 admiring and grateful members of The Empire Club of Canada.
Ladies and gentlemen, General Reginald Lewis.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. President: Thank you very much for this illuminated scroll. I must say, Mr. President, that when you appeared to be having difficulty finding the scroll, and then I caught sight out of the corner of my eye of Bud Hoffman advancing with a bouquet of flowers, I was really quite concerned.
You see, my problem was I was apprehensive that I was about to commence a new custom in the club and receive a floral tribute instead of the traditional scroll. Thank goodness you found the scroll and that the flowers are for my wife Sheila. I don't know what I would have done if I had received flowers for I had already decided where I was going to hang this scroll and I must say it would be a pretty silly place for flowers.
I intend to hang the scroll where I will see it most days of the year. That way it will be a constant reminder to me of the great pleasure I had when I was privileged to be your President. I thank you for that pleasurable year, as I do for this illuminated scroll.
We also acknowledge our thanks and admiration to Sheila Lewis and I ask our First Vice-President, Bud Hoffman, to present her with a bouquet. (Presentation of bouquet of roses to Mrs. Lewis.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I now call to the microphone the President of The Empire Club Foundation, General Bruce Legge.
Mr. President, Your Honour, fellow members and guests of The Empire Club of Canada: It is a great pleasure for me on this festive occasion to be asked to present an autographed volume of The Best Talk in Town to our Honorary Vice-President the Honourable Pauline McGibbon, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
This fascinating book was the 75th Anniversary project of the Empire Club and Foundation. We are delighted that two of Canada's famous journalists, Scott Young and Margaret Hogan, were able to undertake the prodigious research of studying the speeches given to the club since our foundation in 1903. The result of their work and talent is a brilliant and witty highlight of the club's place in Canadian history.
It should also be said that the General Lewis Yearbook for 1978-79 is a worthy counterpart to The Best Talk in Town because it contains an index by author and by subject of all the speeches given to our famous forum for seventy-five years.
Your Honour, the Crown in its "noblesse oblige" has always lent its patronage to valour, to learning, to literature, to medicine, to science, to patriotism, to charity and to good works. In your association with The Empire Club of Canada and with so many other great Canadian institutions you are the Crown! I offer you the thanks of all our members and ask you to accept the first autographed copy of The Best Talk in Town which I am certain you and Mr. McGibbon will enjoy.
Ladies and gentlemen, the joy of Christmas is beautifully expressed in the rich heritage of music that has been produced over the centuries. To perform a selection of Christmas songs and to lead us in singing some of our favourite carols we have with us this year the Oriana Singers, a nationally renowned group of female vocalists under the direction of John Ford and accompanied by Doreen Uren-Simmons. I invite you to enjoy their voices now as they enter singing.
A program of Christmas music was presented by the Oriana Singers.
Thank you, John Ford, thank you, Doreen Uren-Simmons, and thank you, Oriana Singers. I trust that the attentiveness of this audience and the warmth of its applause demonstrated to you how much we enjoyed your music today.
Ladies and gentlemen, will you please join in singing the first verse of "O Canada", following which will you please remain standing until the Vice-Regal party and the choir have departed from the room.
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.