JANUARY 17, 1978
Past President's Dinner
GUEST OF HONOUR William M. Karn
CHAIRMAN The President, Peter Hermant
PROGRAMME Royal Salute
Grace Allan Leal, Q.C., LL.D., Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
TOASTS The Queen The Chairman
Greetings on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11, The Honourable Pauline McGibbon, O.C., B.A., LL.D., D.U., D.Hum.L., B.A.A. (Theatre), Hon. F.R.C.P.S.(C). Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
Canada and the Commonwealth Sydney Hermant, Esquire Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Response Charles C. Hoffman, Esquire 3rd Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada
The Empire Club of Canada Brigadier General Reginald W. Lewis, C.D., 1st Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada
Response Major-General Bruce J. Legge, C.M.M., C.St.J., E.D., C.D., Q.C. President, Empire Club Foundation
Presentation to the Guest of Honour The Chairman
Impromptu Toast Harold V. Cranfield, M.D., F.R.C.P. (C) Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Ladies and gentlemen: The honour of being president of the Empire Club is one that is not taken lightly or without trepidation. I imagine every president has feelings of misgiving as to whether or not the job can be fulfilled to the standard that history demands.
The man whom we are honouring this evening must have felt the weight of Empire Club tradition particularly since his life schedule was markedly changed by events.
In his own words, "When I originally agreed to act as Third Vice-President, I felt I would have three years during which to prepare for the presidency--but this was not to be. Those of you who know Mr. Robert Armstrong realize that while you may refuse him once, you cannot refuse him twice."
So Bill Karn found himself in the presidency before he felt really ready--but fortunately Bill Karn is a very organized and capable person. As a matter of fact, he has a motto which is, "If it's going to be done--it's going to be done right."
It is now a matter of record that Bill Karn's year was an outstanding one and a large part of the success of the club stems from Bill's personality and talent.
There are numerous examples of how Bill Karn can handle the unexpected and the difficult.
For example, on one occasion, Bill's company, Erco Industries, had a shipment to be exported out of New York where there are very strict regulations and a very strong dock workers' union. The product (phosphorous sesquisulfide) was shipped in drums which began to leak. Unfortunately, this particular product has a terrible odour and because of the smell coming from the leaking drums, the dock workers refused to move them. The man of the hour, Bill Karn, was sent down to New York to personally solve the problem. The dock workers were presented with a free case of beer and the drums were moved.
Bill is also a fellow who believes in following instructions and doing things in a systematic and orderly way--he's not liable to be caught having assembled the outside of the bottle while forgetting to insert the ship.
The story is told that when Bill and Elfrida were first married and living in Buckingham, Quebec, they invited some of Bill's co-workers for dinner. Elfrida cooked a turkey and put it on the table for Bill to carve. Bill had never carved a turkey before so he brought out a book, "How to Carve a Turkey", and then proceeded to read the instructions and carve the turkey successfully.
I might say that Bill isn't totally successful when dealing with some of these more treacherous problems. For example, the beavers under his dock at Lake Rosseau are still undefeated.
Suffice it to say that Bill Karn's year as Empire Club president was a reflection of Bill's organizing and motivational talents, the prime example of which were the outstanding range of speakers which the club presented and the extraordinary achievement of having the yearbook completed prior to the first meeting of the following season.
It goes without saying, then, that Bill Karn is a truly outstanding and unique person--but not quite so unique as you might imagine.
On a recent trip to Brazil, Bill made the mistake of having his shoes shined early in the morning by an extraordinarily light fingered and talented shoeshine boy who managed to detach Bill from his travellers' cheques, representing nearly all the money he had with him at the time and leaving him with a negligible amount of cash.
Since this was during the weekend, he had to borrow money from his customers and on Monday morning when he went to get the travellers' cheques reimbursed in Brazil the agency there wired his home office for not only verification of his credentials but also a physical description of Bill Karn. Now that must have been a telex worth reading.
Ladies and gentlemen, fortunately it's not necessary for me to have to physically describe Bill Karn--he's easily recognized in this room as the 74th president of the Empire Club and it is a pleasure for me to present to him, on behalf of the Board of Directors and the membership of the club, this tray which is suitably inscribed "Presented to William M. Karn by The Empire Club of Canada, 1976-1977", and with it our sincere appreciation for a job not only well but exceptionally well done.
Mr. President, Your Honour, and fellow members of The Empire Club of Canada: That very kind and all too generous introduction, for which I thank our Chairman most sincerely, indicates that for tonight, caution has been thrown to the cold wintry winds. While listening to Peter, I was recalling the admonition given by Ulysses to Tydide Diomed prior to their joint reconnoitre of the Trojan camp, as written in Homer's Iliad; and I quote from Bryant's translation: "Tydide, praise me not too much, nor blame me, for thou speakest to the Greeks who know me."
It is most gratifying to see such a large number of friends at this gathering of the clan--Empire Club pillars, every one. May I thank in particular Her Honour Lieutenant Governor Pauline McGibbon and Mr. McGibbon for honouring us on this festive occasion.
Another pillar present in spirit, from whom I wish to bring greetings, is Past President Harold Lawson. It was he who brought me into this great club and later invited me to become a Director. I am happy to report that Harold is making good recovery from the stroke which he suffered one year ago, but he felt that it would be another year before he could consider attending our dinner.
Mr. President, I feel greatly honoured to be receiving this very attractive silver tray which you have presented on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada, and I am most appreciative of your warm expression of gratitude. To have been requested to serve as your President was an honour, a privilege and an experience which is difficult to describe. Because I was anxious to avoid making too many mistakes, I may have bothered several Directors and Past Presidents rather frequently seeking opinions and advice. But all of you were understanding and generous in your wise counsel, and I thank you for your forbearance. Together with the support of the membership at large we accomplished another milestone in our record of service to this community and to our country.
As you know, Mr. President, 1978 is the year of the horse in the Chinese calendar. Could this tray be considered my sterling silver pass to that exclusive paddock where my illustrious predecessors have entered? But this stable of talent is not grazing quietly. Every one of them continues to rise to new challenges year after year. Paraphrasing from Virgil: "They are piling Pelion on Ossa."
On a more serious note, this club, with its roots strongly nourished by our Anglo-Saxon heritage since 1903, has played a very significant and honourable roll in the development of our nation. Today, perhaps more than ever before, we have an obligation to be even more mindful of our objectives, in order that our forum may continue to be recognized as an authoritative platform from which views of all parties may be expressed on critical contemporary issues and reported fairly by the news media.
Divisive forces which threaten to fracture our country into embittered segments must be heard, studied, and challenged with all the reason and understanding at our command. I wonder if Queen Elizabeth II was thinking of Canada during her Christmas message to the Commonwealth, when she expressed the hope that the Christmas spirit of reconciliation might burn as strongly in our hearts during 1978 as during her Silver Jubilee year. How fortunate we would be if some member of our Royal Family were able to celebrate our 75th Anniversary with us in Toronto.
In closing, may I quote pearls of wisdom expressed by a Past Honorary President, General, the Rt. Hon. Georges P. Vanier, P.C., D.S.O., M C., C.D., in his address to Canada on New Year's Day in 1967.
The measure of our unity has been the measure of our success ... If we imagine that we can now go our separate ways within our country; if we think that selfish interests can now take precedence over the national good; if we exaggerate our differences or revel in contention; if we do any of these things we will promote our own destruction ...
No message is more badly needed than the one our unity can supply, the lesson that diversity need not be the cause for conflict but, on the contrary, may lead to richer and nobler living ...
Let us open the windows and the doors of the provinces. Let us look over the walls and see what is on the other side. Let us know one another; and that will lead to understanding ... We cannot run the risk of this great country falling into pieces.
Since those remarks were uttered it is now the eleventh year. Let us hope it is not the eleventh hour.