Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
Speech on the Occasion of the Reopening of the Royal Military College Saint-Jean
Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Saturday, May 24, 2008
Today is a wonderful day. A day that puts me in mind of another day: November 13, 1952.
On that day, 56 years ago, my predecessor, Governor General Vincent Massey, opened the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, just as we are doing this morning.
On that day, Vincent Massey spoke of values.
He said that the Royal Military College Saint-Jean would instill in its students certain qualities that may be neglected elsewhere: the classical virtues of duty, discipline and good manners.
Those “classical” virtues to which he referred may seem old-fashioned in 2008, but for the sake of argument, let’s replace duty with commitment, discipline with a desire to act for the greater good, good manners with respect and integrity.
Though the words may change, the spirit remains the same.
These are timeless values. Values that to this day are embodied by the men and women who have chosen a career in the Forces, whom it is my privilege to work alongside every day as commander-in-chief.
As your commandant pointed out earlier, you, the officer cadets of RMC Saint-Jean, have not chosen the easy road.
The hours are long, the training intense, the lessons demanding and the discipline constant.
At all times, you must give the best of yourselves. Your superiors expect nothing less from you.
Because they know that you will have to lead by example.
And leading by example may mean putting the interests of others above your own. And sometimes, the lives of others above your own.
The lives of your military colleagues and soldiers under your command, whom you will never leave behind, whatever the danger.
The lives of civilians—those women, those children and those men—who are deprived of their most basic rights and whom you will help as part of your missions.
Here at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, you are continuing a tradition of excellence.
The tradition of excellence that has earned this institution its reputation for years.
Ask some of the alumni to tell you about the College before it closed in 1995, and you will see the pride with which they describe those years of study that shaped their paths and their lives.
Many look back on those years with emotion.
One of them, General Richard Evraire, who is with us here today, even wrote a play inspired by his time spent here, at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean.
In that play, entitled Chambre 204, the General talks about life at the College.
About the camaraderie that makes it an unforgettable adventure, one that warms the heart. You know what I’m talking about.
About bilingualism as well, about the importance of tolerance and an open mind.
And finally, about equal opportunity for Francophones.
If I may, I would like to quote Richard, one of the main characters of Chambre 204: [translation] “We still have a long way to go, but a Francophone can have a fulfilling military career without compromising his language or culture.”
The reopening of the Royal Military College Saint-Jean is an important milestone on that road to equal opportunity in the Forces.
To my mind, it is a promise for the future.
A promise for the future that we make to those young people who choose to serve their country in the Canadian Forces, in the name of an ideal of justice and freedom.
We owe them that much, don’t you think?
May the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, once again full of life, stand equal to their commitment, to their desire to do their part, to their respect for their country and the values they defend.
May this remarkable institution, situated in this special place and steeped in history, stand equal to what it was in its glory days, for the benefit of us all.
And may each and every one of you stand equal to your motto: “Vérité, devoir, vaillance / Truth, Duty, Valour.”