116th and 117th Season Past Presidents Dinner Speeches
- Media Type
- Item Type
- 31 May, 2022 116th and 117th Season Past Presidents Dinner Speeches
- Date of Publication
- 31 May 2022
- Date Of Event
- May 31
- Language of Item
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- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Views and Opinions Expressed Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the speakers or panelists are those of the speakers or panelists and do not necessarily reflect or represent the official views and opinions, policy or position held by The Empire Club of Canada.
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- Full Text
- Loyal Toast
Ann Curran | Past President 2002-2003
Good evening Past Presidents and Directors of the Empire Club of Canada. It is an honour…and quite timely, to toast the Queen the week of her Platinum Jubilee!
Royal Jubilees are an occasion to celebrate the life and reign of a monarch and the UK will mark Queen Elizabeth’s 70th year on the throne with festivities June 2nd through to June 5th. Her Majesty is the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee.
The Queen has ruled for longer than any other Monarch in British history, becoming a much loved and respected figure around the world. Known for her sense of duty and her devotion to a life of service, she has been an important figurehead for the UK and the Commonwealth during times of enormous social change. She sees public and voluntary service as one of the most important elements of her work. The Queen has links - as Royal Patron or President - with over 600 charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organisations.
In 1947, on her twenty-first birthday, a young Princess Elizabeth gave a broadcasted speech, dedicating her life to the service of the Commonwealth. She said: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
Five years later, in 1952, her father King George VI died and Princess Elizabeth immediately acceded to the throne, becoming Queen Elizabeth II - taking on all of the responsibilities which came with the title.
I think we can all agree, despite all the troubles and challenges that she and her family have endured, she is a woman true to her word and has been an exemplary and loyal public servant to the Commonwealth.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and raise your glass for a Loyal Toast: To the Queen – le Reign du Canada!
The Empire Club of Canada and its Past Presidents
Gordon McIvor | Past President 2015-2016
Thank you and what an honour and a true delight to address this august gathering of our Past Presidents, along with the Board of the Empire Club of Canada for 2021-2022, and the Board of the Empire Club Foundation. It is especially significant for me since we are honouring tonight two extraordinary individuals, Antoinette Tummillo and Mike van Soelen, and I am so very proud in having had a hand in bringing them both onto the Board of the Club. Like everyone in the room this evening, these two individuals take the definition of over achievement to a whole new level, and each of them significantly moved the Club ahead during their year in office.
Furthermore, Antoinette and her husband John are very dear personal friends of mine who I have known for many decades, so this is especially meaningful to me!
Let me start by apologizing for not being attired in black tie garb…like our Board colleague Richard Carleton, I discovered that my tux had very mysteriously shrunk during the past two years of social inactivity, and like Richard I am left with a garment that seems destined to be left hanging in desolate solitude forever more.
I also want to acknowledge our “doyen” this evening, that being the person in the room who was the Past President the longest time ago. Would you please join me in calling out and honouring Dr. H. Ian Macdonald who served as President of our Club 53 years ago, in 1969-1970.
Ian, we are just delighted to have you here with us tonight. You have been an important part of my life without perhaps knowing it, and I remember the speech you gave as President of York University when I graduated from there back in 1977. Even long before that, you were our leader here at the Empire Club during the famous year of 1969 which included the Summer of Love. Our younger members may have no idea what exactly that era was like, but I know you will back me up in ensuring them that it was one of the most momentous and interesting periods in recent human history, the apex of a decade that changed the world forever. And I do wish to dispel the rumour being perpetuated this evening by Past President Kent Emmerson that Dr. MacDonald ended each meeting of the Club with his personal rendition of “I’ve got you, Babe”. It is simply not true and must be put to rest.
But on a more serious note, it is indeed extraordinary to be in the same room with a group of Canadians who each in their own way was a nation builder, someone who cared and cares deeply about Canada and its place in the world and who worked to deepen our citizen’s understanding of their nation. Some, like Tony van Straubenzee, added to that task a very healthy dose of glitz and glamour, bringing the most famous Hollywood actress in history, Audrey Hepburn, to the Club the same year he secured the person who was arguably the most influential American President of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan. Then there were extraordinary societal leaders like Nona MacDonald Heaslip, who ran the Club while at the same time achieving new heights of success in the media and communications world in both Toronto and New York. It is fitting that there is a theatre named after her here in Toronto because there is only one thing that Nona loved as much as her extraordinary career and that is culture, and she made sure that the Empire Club would never neglect that area of Canadian life.
Three of the most outstanding Past Presidents of our history, Eric Jackman, Gareth Seltzer and Captain Dr, John Niles, continue to serve the Club today as members of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club Foundation. John fits this in between his work on the front lines of conflict zones around the world. Gareth, one of the youngest Presidents in the Club’s history, has a range of interests so vast that people seeing his resume for the first time assume he is actually several people. He will in all likelihood remain as the only Past President of the Empire Club to be nominated for an Oscar by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Hollywood. I would add, for those of you who are not aware, that Gareth is just recovering from a cancer procedure so I know that all of your thoughts and prayers will be with him for a speedy recovery ! And Eric Jackman, still bursting with energy, has just as many ideas for the Foundation and the Club as he did decades ago…like a good wine, he just gets better with age. He and his brother Hal, our former Lieutenant Governor amongst his almost endless accomplishments, continue to support us all in so many ways, and we should all be extremely grateful for this.
This is of course only a few isolated examples of the types of individuals we are gathered to pay tribute to this evening. And the guests of honour didn’t just inherit this legacy but have considerably added to its meritorious list of achievements. Mike van Soelen is arguably one of the best public relations professional operating in Canada today, and Antoinette Tummillo was for a very long period considered the most senior female real property practitioner in the country, opening new vistas for women in a profession that was very heavily dominated by men. I had the great privilege of working with her for a few years, and her ability to get the job done led her from one success to the next.
I have very strong and positive memories of people like Andrea Wood, Ann Curran, Bill Laidlaw, David Edmison, Noble Chummar, Peter Hermant and Barbara Jesson at the podium, each with a unique style, each at our podium and leading our Club with their leadership skills that we will never forget. For me it was a very special time to see my very dear friend Barbara Jesson lead the Club, and to see her add yet another milestone to a truly remarkable career in public relations. She has recently, to my great delight, joined us as a Board member at the Foundation! And how about Verity Sylvester who did so much extraordinary work for the Club during a difficult time in its history and then went on to revive the Foundation thanks to her endless enthusiasm , an entity that now actually has a path forward that is pretty exciting? Verity was the first person I met at the Club, and I remember thinking that if everyone was like her then I had come to the right place. And speaking of the Foundation, the members of that Board join us tonight, the first time in recent history that the Club and Foundation boards have been in the same room together. I’ve named most of them, but wish to introduce you all to our newest Board member, Bank of Montreal executive Karin Treiberg. Karin, welcome to the Empire Club Foundation!
To our incumbent President Kelly Jackson, I want to ensure you from the bottom of my heart that in one month, when you join the ranks of the Past Presidents I have described above, we will welcome you with delight. You have had an unforgettable year with successes in many areas, including transitioning our Club into a governance model aligned with our digital age. The work that you did, started by Antoinette Tummillo a year earlier, will give us lots to talk about when we celebrate you next year.
Because I want to ensure you, honourable Past Presidents, that the Club is stronger today than it has ever been before. When Sal Rabbani takes the reins of this organization in 30 days time, he will be standing on the shoulders of the accomplished men and women who are gathered here tonight, not starting anew or reinventing the wheel, but rather making the historical success of our beloved Club work as well in 2022-23 as it did 120 years ago in 1903 when we started this adventure to encourage our fellow Canadians that it was just simply a bad idea to join the United States of America.
In the very last sentence in the book “The Best Talk in Town”, the most comprehensive history ever written about the Empire Club by Scott Young (the legendary Neil Young’s father) and Margaret Hogan published back in 1979 , this sentiment regarding our Club is beautifully painted and brings together pretty much everything that we have inherited today. It reads as follows: “ It is a strange outcome in a way, that the patriotic aim of a small group of British-connected men in 1903-wanting to preserve Canada’s link with Britain-brought into being a series of more than two thousand speakers who, in total, hewed out a definition of Canada, not only as a continuing British connection, but at the same time as a proudly independent nation”.
We have come so far as a proudly independent nation, and have added to our strength black men and women, Punjabi Sikhs, Muslims, Asians, Latinos, First Nations, members of the LGBTQ community and so many more. We have to be sure evolved significantly from our British-centric past, but we have certainly kept one of the most cherished of beliefs of our founders in 1903…the desire to be a strong nation where we share the core belief that freedom and freedom of expression are at the very centre of the Canadian experience. The Empire Club of Canada, through the efforts of everyone in this room, is the very epitome of that belief system, and nowhere in the world will you find a Club more devoted to offering a public forum to our fellow Canadians so that together we can make stronger and more informed decisions as citizens. It is the core of democracy and is the core of the Club, and we must all celebrate the importance of the men and women who each made enormous sacrifices to keep it relevant, strong and well positioned for the next 120 years of our history.
Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses in a toast to the Past Presidents of the Empire Club of Canada!
Andrea Wood | Past President 2014-2015
Good evening everyone. I cannot tell you what a pleasure it is to be back with you in this room and in this beautiful, historic club. While the pandemic has brought many silver linings, one thing I have missed has been the opportunity to dress up (as painful as fitting into that old tux must have been, Gordon!) and to break bread with a broad circle of friends and acquaintances, as we are doing tonight.
The Past Presidents Dinner provides a great opportunity for us to renew our commitment to the mission of the Empire Club, to renew our friendships with each other and to celebrate the hard work of our Past Presidents and so many others.
Gordon has said it well: through your hard work and dedication, some 120 years after its founding, the Empire Club continues to advance the cause of Canada as a strong nation where we share the core belief that freedom of expression and civil, fact-based debate are at the very centre of the Canadian experience. They strengthen our democracy.
Gordon, thank you very much for your remarks. I have missed seeing you – the eloquence, warmth and kindness of your remarks were a balm to my post pandemic anxiety ridden soul! They reminded me how much fun it was to serve alongside you. Thank you also for your many years of service to the Club first as a director, then as President, then leading the Club’s signature Nation Builder of the Year Award, and now most recently as President of the Foundation. Your contribution has been enormous and we are all very grateful to you for the sacrifices that we know you made in your support of the Club.
Hats off and congratulations to tonight’s honorees, Antoinette Tumillo and Mike van Soelen, for their stewardship of our great Club through unprecedented conditions. While I was only watching from the sidelines when the pandemic struck, I was absolutely in awe of the apparent ease with which you pivoted to virtual meetings and maintained the visibility of the Club. It is such a pleasure to be here tonight celebrating your resilience and a job well done. We are all so grateful to you for your determination not to let the pandemic get us down.
Finally, congratulations to you, Sal, as you assume the reigns of power. I consider it to have been a great privilege to lead the Club. I hope you find the experience to be as rewarding as I did. I look forward to seeing how you continue the mission of those before you; to honour our past while remaining relevant in the present and anticipating the future for the benefit of the generations to come.