Toast given by Sarah Band at the Loyal Societies' Dinner to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of the Right Honourable Roland Michener
April 27, 1990
Your Excellencies, Honoured Guests, Head Table guests, ladies and gentlemen.
In the cradle of hills alongside the Thames at Runnymede, the unmarked meadow holds the memory of freedom found. The place where the Magna Charta gave form to dreams and aspirations. As Edward Coke was moved to say in 1628, "Magna Charta is such a fellow, that he will have no sovereign." On the hills behind, a tiny part of Canada's neighbour to the south. The Kennedy Memorial, in memory of the President who gave his life in search of freedom for all peoples.
This, then is the place of our beginnings. The place to which our hearts turn when words like "freedom" and "loyalty" cross our lips. Because the Magna Charta said it all. Spelled it out for a tiny island, then countries across the channel and around the world. The idea from the meadow touched every continent, every parliament, every legislature. It called us to fairness and freedom for people of all ages, all colours, all nations, all walks of life. It called in languages and dialects, and we answered with the spirit of loyalty.
"Loyalty, like affection is a thing of the heart and mind. It is not of the mouth or the pocket," as Sir Andrew McPhail said many years ago. The spirit which brings us together for this grand occasion; the spirit which turned Empire to Commonwealth with the will for goodness, not the fear of oppression; the will we see reflected in the Societies of the Saints,
Andrew, George, David and Patrick. In the Order of St. John and in our institutions of lawyers, doctors and the clergy. Look back with me into my Empire Club. I share it with many, I think of it as 'mine'. Two years after its beginning as a 'listening' club for its members, George W. Ross said these words in his address to the members, "I think you will accept the proposition readily, that there was a time when there was no such thing as Canadian loyalty." I can hear the comments, "Oh really?". And respond that the Empire Club hears many comments. Some of which we disagree with. If there was a time when there was no loyalty in Canada it is not now.
We share an unique legacy of monarchy, the only country on our continent--first French, then English; we share the challenges of language and national differences of origin; we share the power and strength of free thought, differences of points of view, and a single, unswerving loyalty to the right to freedom, to the right of debate, to the right of heritage to a sovereign state.
Tonight we honour a great man of our country. I honour him as a former president of the Empire Club of Canada. l proudly follow in his footsteps. Many others will know him for other times and other associations. He is a beloved leader of men and women, of high repute and strong resolve. In his presence we reflect his charm and wit, his love of crown and country.
To you the Loyal Societies, for honouring our guest, for helping us remember our proud heritage. For reminding us of our monarchies, French to 1759; British from then to 1982 when Queen Elizabeth II became our Queen of Canada; Canadian since then. For showing us the energy to be together and different, I offer this toast.
We accept this night as a joyous visit with the man we love, honour and revere. And I salute you with these words from the English poet John Gay, "We only part to meet again."