December 18, 2008
The Hon. David C. Onley
Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario
Annual Christmas Luncheon
Chairman:Jo-Ann McArthur, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
David Goodwin: Director, The Empire Club of Canada, and Co-Chair, The Empire Club of Canada Christmas Luncheon
Dr. Lareina Yeung: Volunteer, Volunteer Optometric Services for Humanity
Richard Te: Volunteer Marketing Director, Ancop International Canada Inc.
Dalal Al-Waheidi: Executive Director, Free The Children David Russell-Hill: Volunteer, Daily Food Bank
Rev. Dr. John S. Niles: Senior Minister, St. Andrew’s United Church, Markham, and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Her Honour Ruth Ann Onley
George L. Cooke: President and CEO, The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company, and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Gareth S. Seltzer: Past President, The Empire Club of Canada, and Chair, The Empire Club of Canada Christmas Luncheon
Lieutenant Commander Paul Blumenstock: Canadian Forces
Major David J. Kennedy: Officer in Charge 2824 Royal Canadian Army Cadets, Cadet Organization Police School
David Carroll: Associate Executive Director, Daily Food Bank
David Edmison: Chairman, The Empire Club of Canada Community Service Committee, and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Cindy Blakely: Award Winner, The Empire Club of Canada Community Service Award.
Introduction by Jo-Ann McArthur
The Honourable David C. Onley was appointed Ontario’s twenty-eighth lieutenant-governor following a distinguished career as a broadcaster. His Honour has championed disability issues for many years and served as Chair of the Government of Ontario’s Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and was an accessibility council member for the Skydome and the Air Canada Centre.
In his role as Lieutenant-Governor His Honour has adopted two specific causes—to promote accessibility as that which enables people to achieve their full potential; and to continue the Aboriginal youth literacy programs implemented by his predecessor and to twin-track the program to include a computer-literacy initiative.
His Honour was born in Midland, Ontario, and grew up in Scarborough. He is a best-selling author and is the recipient of the Rick Hansen Award of Excellence and the Courage to Come Back Award. He was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame and the Scarborough Walk of Fame and holds three honorary degrees.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.
Ms. McArthur, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen:
I am delighted to join you for this year’s Empire Club Christmas Luncheon, one of the highlights on the Lieutenant-Governor’s annual calendar, as I am sure it is on yours.
I am honoured to break bread in such good company as this year’s head table guests. I use the word “good” advisedly, as they are all people who have done superbly admirable work in our community. Someone once said, “Christmas is not a date, it is a state of mind.” Keeping a Christmas state of mind all year round seems to come naturally to them and the organizations they represent: Volunteer Optometric Services for Humanity, Ancop International, the Daily Food Bank, Free the Children, and the COPS Program.
I look forward to presenting this year’s Empire Club Community Service Award a bit later to one of the table guests, Cindy Blakely, founder of the Holiday Angel Program, Co-founder of New Circles, and President of the Caring Foundation, whose numerous charitable activities give new meaning to the word “multitasking.”
I am also pleased to meet Lt. Commander Paul Blumenstock, representing the Canadian Forces, and Rev. Dr. John Niles from St. Andrew’s United Church in Markham. I am delighted to see that so many of you have come out to support the Empire Club Christmas Luncheon today.
I suspect that we will all look back on 2008 with mixed feelings. But, in the spirit of the season that is upon us, I suggest that, if we “accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative,” as the Johnny Mercer classic says, perhaps we can set aside a few of the apocalyptic headlines of the recent past, at least until the New Year.
For me, the positive needs no accentuating, thanks to the many hundreds of good people I have met around our province over the past 12 months. They include the volunteers who do so much in their community through organizations like Rotary, March of Dimes, Easter Seals, the Royal Canadian Legion, and Pathways to Education, to name but a few.
They include the veterans, police officers, and fire fighters who marched to honour the memory of their fallen comrades; the military families who have handled with such courage the deployment of our soldiers to Afghanistan; and the municipalities and colleges throughout Ontario, where accessibility advisory committees are working so hard to make their environments accessible to all.
They also include the many young people to whom I had the pleasure of presenting awards for their success in working to eradicate racism, extraordinary literary creations, completing formidable tasks of community service and rigorous programs of study, devising innovative programs to save Canadian lives, and achieving prestigious research scholarships.
In personal terms, two events of this year stand out. The first happened in August, when the Governor-General called and asked me to represent her at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. My late father once told me, when an opportunity comes knocking, first say yes. Then say thank you. And then, keep your mouth shut. So I said “Yes, Your Excellency” and “thank you,” and I said no more. It was a unique experience to be with some of Canada’s most accomplished athletes like Chantal Petticlerc, who last week was selected for the Lou Marsh Award as Athlete of the Year. This was a wonderful postscript to the Beijing Games of 2008.
Our other especially noteworthy trip was to London, in the fall, where I was formally presented to the Queen as her newest representative in Ontario. She was most gracious, and told Ruth Ann and me of the great affection she and her family have for Canada and how much they love coming here. She also happened to be wearing a beautiful maple leaf brooch that apparently was one of her mother’s favourite items of jewelry.
In focusing on the good things that have happened in 2008, I am inspired by a friend of mine, who gave up a lucrative career in IT to work at the Princess Margaret Hospital. He wrote to me recently, and I would like to read to you what he said: “I still feel quite blessed that I have the opportunity to serve in a small way in such an important establishment as the Princess Margaret Hospital. While material hardships in tough economic times are a large concern for many families, we all must keep the perspective that would oblige us to place life and health with loved ones ahead of all other considerations. Every day, I see people, some far too young, facing a life-and-death struggle. Our soldiers overseas face mortal danger for us every day. I, for one, will try to remember how truly blessed I am. I will endeavour to increase my awareness of what is really important in life. I will do my somewhat humble best to make a positive contribution in my life, my country, and my family.”
At this most special time of year, I can think of no better way to live up to the spirit of this blessed season than by celebrating family, good health, caring about one other and focusing on genuinely important events that make a profound difference in our lives.
In the name of the Queen, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, good holiday, and a happy New Year. I send heartfelt greetings to the men and women of Canada’s military forces serving in Afghanistan and around the world, and to your families here at home. I want you to know that the thoughts and prayers of every Canadian are with you at this time, and especially with those who have lost loved ones.
Merci. Thank you.
The Empire Club was then entertained by the Regent Park School of Music choir.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Gareth S. Seltzer, Past President, The Empire Club of Canada, and Chair, The Empire Club of Canada Christmas Luncheon.