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January 24, 2012 12:30 ET

President of BMO Financial Group, Quebec, Encourages the Business Community to Mobilize to Make Montreal a City Where Young People Achieve Their Dreams

According to L. Jacques Menard, it's time to fight cynicism and give hope to young people

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Jan. 24, 2012) - Montreal's business community can lead the way in creating an environment that's more positive for young people, according to L. Jacques Ménard, President of BMO Financial Group, Quebec, in a speech he gave today before members of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal (BTMM).

Mr. Ménard paid homage to all the builders and visionaries who, in their day, worked to ensure the longevity of our major institutions, including the Board of Trade, which is celebrating its 190th anniversary in 2012, and McGill University, which was founded in 1821. He also noted that this year marks the 195th anniversary of BMO Financial Group, Canada's first bank.

"These institutions have survived by constantly renewing themselves," Mr. Ménard said. "They were able to overcome the obstacles in their path through the imagination, energy and effort of the people who worked for them and through the vision of their leaders."

According to Mr. Ménard, despite its occasional recent achievements, Montreal is caught in the doldrums. He expressed regret that the city has lost the dynamism that, in its best days, has always taken it to the top.

"What is most lacking these days is hope: the hope of succeeding once again in pushing Montreal to the top, the hope of making it into the winners' circle," Mr. Ménard explained, denouncing the widespread cynicism that leads many to believe we no longer have the right stuff.

Mr. Ménard pointed out that a quality education is the best way to gain confidence and succeed going forward. He also said he was very encouraged by the progress made in the area of student retention in recent years in Quebec; he noted that the high school graduation rate has reached 73 per cent, with an objective of 80 per cent in 2020.

"Our high school graduates of 2020, we already know them," Mr. Ménard said. "They're currently in fourth grade. In eight years, they'll graduate from high school, and five years later, they'll get their bachelor's degrees. These are our children and grandchildren, and we've got to equip them better, make effort and success matter more to them. That's the best way for us to contribute to the development of Montreal and our society," added Mr. Ménard.

Mr. Ménard, the chair of the Action Group on Student Retention and Success in Quebec also reminded his audience of business people: "Admittedly, helping young people is a little self-centred on our part. It's these young people who, tomorrow, will ensure the survival of our society and lifestyle. They're the ones who are going to pay taxes and create the wealth necessary to support our high standard of living. It is very much in our interest to keep them from stumbling."

Mr. Ménard, who recently published Réussir : aller au bout de ses rêves, a book that proposes inspirational models of success, strongly encouraged his audience to become personally involved in helping young people - who sometimes need only to understand that an adult believes in them or is ready to share his or her experiences with them - following the example of the BTMM's Operation Back to School.

"If we all pitch in, each in our own way and with the resources available to us, we can create for our young people a culture that values effort and success. And by doing so, we can soon put cynicism and pessimism behind us," he said.

"Who knows? Maybe one day the Board of Trade will launch a slogan along the lines of 'Montreal, the city where young people achieve their dreams,'" Mr. Ménard concluded.

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