The 77th Year Past President's Dinner
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 3 Feb 1981, p. 217-223
MacNaughton, John A., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Dinner in honour of John A. MacNaughton, Immediate Past President, The Empire Club of Canada. Also, silence in memory of J. Palmer Kent, President, 1962-1963.
Date of Original
3 Feb 1981
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
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.
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Full Text
The 77th Year Past President's Dinner in honour of John A. MacNaughton Immediate Past President at the Royal Canadian Military Institute Tuesday, February 3, 1981


Chairman Reginald Stackhouse President, The Empire Club of Canada

Vice Regal Salute

Silence in memory of J. Palmer Kent President, 1962-3

Grace Harold F. Roberts


The Queen Proposed by the Chairman

Greetings on Behalf o f Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth If The Honourable John B. Aird Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and Honorary Vice President, The Empire Club of Canada


Canada and the Commonwealth A. Carlyle Dunbar

Response R. H. Hilborn


The Empire Club of Canada and its Past Presidents Montague Larkin

Response Reginald W. Lewis

Presentation to the Guest of Honour The Chairman


Your Honour, ladies and gentlemen: It is my very pleasant duty to bring this outstanding program to its finale by making a presentation from the club to our Immediate Past President. The rhythm of the club's year requires that the President sing a hymn of praise not once but three times to his predecessor, once at the annual meeting, once at the Christmas luncheon, and then a third time at this dinner. No duty could be easier or more welcome. I speak for all in saying John was a great President, and I speak for myself in adding, he has been a stalwart colleague.

In making this presentation, however, I want to focus our attention, not on the past, but on the present and future. John has now joined a most exclusive and worthy club, a club within a club, the club of Past Presidents. The initiation fee is high, a whole year as President, but the rewards are many.

As a Past President, John can never be just an ordinary member, not even an ordinary Past President. There are no ordinary Past Presidents. There are only "distinguished Past Presidents." He must always be seated at the table reserved for these sincerely respected members of the club senate. He may not get anything to eat if he comes too late, but at least he will get a seat. And at that table he will be in a strategic location to keep an eye on the President, to fix on him a cool though concerned stare if it is feared he is not starting the program on time.

So the future holds promise for John. No matter how many stresses and strains there may be on Bay Street, no matter how many leadership crises the Progressive Conservative party may suffer, there will always be at least this rock in the storm, the camaraderie of those few, but happy few, the distinguished Past Presidents of the Empire Club.

But if the future holds promise for John, he also offers promise to. the future. At a young age he has already attained a senior position in one of this city's and this country's major investment houses. Son of a respected family in this province, he has earned greater respect for his name throughout this country. The outstanding leadership he showed the club will surely prove to have been but a foretaste of the leadership he will give in wider spheres still. He comes from western Ontario and from origins that another western Ontarian, John Kenneth Galbraith, has taught should be called Scotch, not Scottish. Towns like Exeter and families like the MacNaughtons have produced most of Canada's leaders, and in our guest of honour tonight we have their values incarnate before us.

This gift expresses the high esteem of his fellow Past Presidents, fellow officers and fellow Directors. We know the price of silver has dropped, but when we ordered the tray, it was up! In offering this tray to John, I assure him that we hope his association with the club is always such that, if any clouds do come his way, they will always have a silver lining.


Mr. President, Your Honour, distinguished Past Presidents and fellow officers and Directors of The Empire Club of Canada.

Thank you, Dr. Stackhouse, for your kind words and also for this very elegant tray. Both your words and this gift will be part of the "movable feast" that my Empire Club presidency has been and will be in the years ahead.

I must say that in listening to your generous comments, Mr. President, I recalled and identified with a story told by the Most Reverend Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, when he addressed us in 1975. He began with an anecdote of a man who was introduced, perhaps over-flatteringly, at a dinner meeting. When the man finally stood up he said that he felt that he had to offer up two prayers for forgiveness: one, for forgiveness for the man who had introduced him because in his generosity he had told so many lies and the second for himself, because he had enjoyed it so much.

I know how he felt. Thank you, Reg. I acknowledge the hyperbole but at the same time I appreciate greatly the sentiments you have expressed on behalf of my friends gathered here this evening.

It was just about one year ago that our then Immediate Past President, Reg Lewis, phoned me to report that Reg Stackhouse had accepted the nominating committee's invitation to be club President in the 1980-81 season. My reply was, of course, that I was delighted. I also observed that as a result I would have the distinction of having my name on the Past President's role, comfortably wedged between two Reginalds, one of whom was a Brigadier General, the other of whom was a Doctor of Divinity. To this General Lewis replied, "What a spot! On the one hand a Reginald to put you down and on the other one to lift you up." I can't say that I ever felt the threat of a put-down from either side. But I have been reassured to be flanked by both a protector for the body and for the soul.

However, on the side of protection for the body I might tell you that I was on the east-bound Queen streetcar one evening when it stopped at Sherbourne Street in front of the barracks to discharge a large number of timid looking young reservists, presumably members of the Lewis Light Infantry, and I concluded that if Canada is ever threatened with invasion I might be more secure through a Stackhouse call for divine intervention than through a Lewis call to arms.

Before sitting down I would like to make some brief comments on our club which was eloquently toasted this evening by Montague Larkin.

For me the presidency of The Empire Club of Canada was a trust. I didn't approach the task with that view but very quickly came to that conclusion. The value of the institution that our predecessors have created and we are charged with preserving becomes evident when one begins to organize and realizes the reputation that our club has built over seventy-six years. Let me cite some examples from my own experience.

First we have a reputation for being a prestigious forum where meetings are conducted efficiently and tastefully.

Very reassuring evidence of this came in the summer of 1979 when it was announced that President Carter was planning a visit to Canada. I contacted American Ambassador Enders in Ottawa to offer to host a luncheon or dinner for the President. His response was immediate and specific. He said that if it was decided that a public address should be part of the agenda that the Empire Club would be the platform that he would prefer and that he would recommend to the State Department that our invitation be given active consideration. Subsequent phone calls from both the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa and the Canadian Embassy in Washington confirmed that he was as good as his word. We also have a reputation for a commitment to oratorical excellence. I have mentioned before my next-door neighbour, a literate Irishman from Dublin, who is a field producer for CTV; he commented to me once that he always enjoyed covering Empire Club events because, "Your club is the only one in Canada where public speaking is regarded as an art form." Reinforcing the same point was an observation made to me by Geoffrey Stevens that "Every major national politician I have covered has given the best speech of his life at the Empire Club. Not only does the club get the best speakers; it has the ability also to draw their best from them."

Finally, we have a reputation, and I don't say this jokingly, for being non-partisan. With Ontario just beginning an election campaign I don't want to make too much of a virtue out of non-partisanship in all quarters, but in the programing and conduct of a speakers club it is in my view an essential quality. That we have successfully built a reputation for being respectful of and available to leaders from all political points of view was underlined for me by two developments last year, both of which were very gratifying. The first was that when the 1980 general election was called Ed Broadbent's office phoned to enquire if we would schedule a meeting for him. The second was that out of a file of invitations to address virtually every prominent organization in Canada, René Lévesque selected ours. He made only one speech outside of Quebec during the referendum year and he chose the Empire Club as his audience.

That neither of these men found a natural constituency at the Empire Club did not matter to either of them, any more than it did to Joe Clark or Jean Chrétien or Brian Peckford. What did matter to them was that they regarded our membership as one that had an honest interest in their views, a willingness to give them a hearing and a tradition of a respectful reception. None asked for any more and our reputation is that none receive any less.

To be charged, ladies and gentlemen, with being President of an organization with such a reputation was a rare honour and at the end of my term, when I had a deeper understanding of the nature of the club than I did at first, I was even more flattered to have been asked to serve than I had been at the outset.

The privilege is one for which I am deeply grateful and the experience is one I shall always remember. I feel somewhat guilty tonight receiving a gift for undertaking an assignment where the rewards in learning opportunities, participation in a worthy undertaking and in fraternity have already been so great.

Rather than receiving thanks I should be giving them. And in conclusion that is exactly what I shall do. To all of you--Past Presidents, officers and Directors--thank you for the opportunity to preside over our distinguished club; thank you also for your good work during my term of office and for your constant support and for your valued guidance; and finally thank you for your warm friendship which I have enjoyed and look forward to continuing to enjoy in the years ahead.

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The 77th Year Past President's Dinner

Dinner in honour of John A. MacNaughton, Immediate Past President, The Empire Club of Canada. Also, silence in memory of J. Palmer Kent, President, 1962-1963.