Governor General of Canada

Governor General of Canada

November 27, 2008 14:58 ET

Governor General Delivers a Speech on "Solidarity in a Global World" at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 27, 2008) - Earlier today, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, delivered a keynote address on the theme of "Solidarity in a Global World" at Comenius University, in Bratislava, Slovakia. The Governor General is in Bratislava as part of a State visit to four European countries, which takes place from November 24 to December 6, 2008.

In front of 200 students, community leaders, politicians and members of the diplomatic corps, the Governor General spoke on the importance of respecting our differences, finding a common approach to the challenges we face and engaging resolutely in dialogue.

Dr. Constance Backhouse, C.M., professor of law at the University of Ottawa, and Dr. Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association of Canadian Studies- both part of the Canadian delegation representing a variety of fields, including diversity and governance; minority integration; arts and culture; civic engagement; youth; and the rules of law and freedoms-also delivered strong remarks on the subject matter.

Today's State visit to the Slovak Republic also included a meeting with His Excellency Pavol Paska, President of the National Council, and a meeting with representatives of Slovak non-governmental organizations (NGO) to discuss their role in advancing the democratic process in their country. His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond led a film discussion with representatives of Slovakia's film industry. For more information on the State visit to the Slovak Republic, please visit

Speech from the Governor General of Canada at Comenius University

On this occasion, Her Excellency delivered the following speech:

"It is a privilege and an honour for me to be here today, in an institution named for the great educationalist Comenius.Whom historian Michelet referred to as the "Copernicus of education"; whom psychologist Piaget regarded as an illustrious pioneer; and who was "one of the first men to propagate the ideas which UNESCO took for its guidance at the time of its establishment."

A thinker who considered the human mind a "blank tablet," one on which we can "continually go on writing and engraving without finding any boundary because the mind is without limit."His life was a passionate search for knowledge, and the impact of that search has reached us even now, centuries later.

I like to think that Comenius, who masterfully combined education and freedom, would be delighted that the oldest university in Slovakia now bears his name.Particularly since this university, though rooted in the soil, history and heritage of Slovakia, continues to look to the widest international horizons, as its mission statement declares.

Your kind invitation has given me the opportunity to reflect with you on the state of the world in a broader perspective and, if you will, from a desire for openness. We have only just entered into the third millennium. We must ensure that this millennium does not begin, as Julia Kristeva suggests, (translation) "with an inability to contemplate the meaning of life."

Those of you who still carry the painful memories know that the last century saw the collapse of a world where borders were delineated by walls, real or imagined. The unprecedented openness that ensued requires that we now work together to redefine the bonds that unite us.

The widening gap between the North and the South; the assaults on nature to extract every last resource; the withdrawal into one's identity when faced with diversity; the rise in fundamentalism of every kind; even the deregulation of the banking industry broadcast worldwide, have all caused a great deal of anxiety.

The only thing we can be sure of, the only compelling position that we can take, is that we can no longer expect to find our own solutions, isolated from one another.From this point on, we need a common approach to the challenges we are facing. The time has come to open up the world and shake its very foundations by asking ourselves:

Do we want a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? Do we want a world where profit turns a blind eye to suffering? Do we want a world where growth is synonymous with environmental catastrophes? Do we want a world where far too many children suffer from malnutrition? Do we want a world where girls are forbidden to attend school? Do we want a world where people continue to be judged by the colour of their skin? Do we want a world where youth are silenced and reduced to inaction and cynicism? Do we want a world that has "taken to monoculture" and produces "civilization in bulk, as if it were sugar-beet," to quote anthropologist Claude Levi-Stauss? Do we want a world where the unilateralism of the strong leads to extremism in the weak? Do we want a world that divides continents instead of bringing them closer together?

What these questions point to is an ethic of responsibility. Because in a world in which our fates are inextricably linked, we should be very wary of the "every man for himself and his clan" mentality. I am absolutely convinced that the surest way for us to avoid closing ourselves off to one another is to engage resolutely in dialogue.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that we "humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking, we learn to be human."

The challenges that we are facing today, which these questions bring to light-questions that many of us ask ourselves aloud or in quiet contemplation-reach well beyond our respective borders and concern the entire world. Yes, the entire world, our world that is "blue like an orange," in the words of the French poet Eluard. Either we divide our efforts and thus diminish their scope, or we broaden our definition of civic responsibility.

I have listened closely to what the women, men and youth from my country, from the Americas, from Africa and from Europe have told me in my travels as governor general of Canada. They have told me that they want the world to be enriched by all that humanity has to offer, by its irreplaceable and invaluable cultural and linguistic diversity.

They have told me that they want the world to be enriched in that "certain" way "of feeling and thinking, of expressing itself and of acting," as Senghor wrote. They have told me that they dream of a world where knowledge is the foundation and sharing, the rule. My dearest wish, as I have said as often as I can, would be for us to dare at last to dream of a freedom that would also be a global conscience.

That we never allow ourselves to cling to an ideology that does not serve humanity. If this dream is to become a reality, every woman, every man, every youth, each and every one of you must commit to making the notion of community a personal responsibility.

We must commit to saying no to indifference, no to exclusion, no to hate. We must commit to saying yes to compassion, yes to openness, yes to fellowship. We have that unique ability to rethink the world together.

To question it. To mollify it. To protect it. To improve it. To beautify it. To pacify it. Young people, whom I have met and spoken with in the course of my travels, truly believe this. Young people believe that we increase our chances for success when we focus on the sum of our experiences. Young people believe that solidarity is a responsibility.

Not a fad, not a trend, but an ongoing responsibility. We need to listen to them when they tell us in their own way that globalization applies to more than just markets, that it can also apply to solidarities.

Young people believe in a world in which one person's freedom is part of everyone else's responsibilities. That is the message they are urgently sending to us. Like an invitation to "dwell poetically on this earth" as poet and thinker Friedrich Holderlin so beautifully expressed.

The woman who stands before you believes this as well. And I invite you to join with countless others to pool our strengths while respecting our differences and for the benefit of all. Tomorrow is less something to be discovered than it is something to be invented. Yes, our objective today is nothing less than inventing the world.

Let each and every one of us be part of that process, as long as the door to freedom remains shut to even one of our fellow human beings."

Photos and the video related to this event will be posted later on today on .

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