Presentation of the 2010 Vimy Award
Presentation of the 2010 Vimy Award
Ottawa, Friday, November 19, 2010
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I became governor general of Canada because I wanted to serve my country. I was particularly interested in fulfilling the dual role of commander-in-chief, in walking in the shoes, however briefly, of the members of the Canadian Forces, men and women who in turn serve our interests at home and overseas.
I am raising the idea of service because that is what we are celebrating here tonight. The Vimy Award is given to a deserving Canadian who has made significant and outstanding contributions to the defence and security of our nation, as well as to the preservation of our democratic values.
I am delighted to congratulate the recipient of this year’s Vimy Award, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson.
Madame Clarkson, as a former governor general and commander-in-chief, has honoured, supported and defended our troops who risk their lives on a daily basis, as well as our principles that we treasure as a country.
But even before becoming governor general, Madame Clarkson was a champion of Canadian values. As a journalist, writer and producer, she called for truth and fairness at all levels of government, as well as in the public and private sectors, and spoke out on behalf of communities and individuals all across the country. She has been a great influence in the lives of so many.
Her commitment to Canada was again apparent when she was sworn in as the 26th governor general of Canada, opening the doors to Rideau Hall like never before and raising the profile of the commander-in-chief in the eyes of Canadians. On multiple occasions, she visited troops abroad, letting the members of the Canadian Forces know that they were always foremost in our thoughts.
She spent holidays with them, rang in the New Year with them, and—after one particularly devastating campaign for troops—she even went out of her way to cut her visit to London short to meet with wounded soldiers in Germany.
Having just returned from my first visit to Afghanistan earlier this month, I now know what you, Madame Clarkson, knew as governor general, and what countless others have already learned. We go to visit our men and women in uniform to bring them messages of solidarity and support, but, in the end, it is they who inspire us. It is their bravery and sacrifice that humble us, motivate us and make us proud to be Canadians.
In your “Eulogy for Canada’s Unknown Soldier,” you said, “Whatever dreams we have, they were shared in some measure by this man who is only unknown by name but who is known in the hearts of all Canadians by all the virtues that we respect—selflessness, honour, courage and commitment.” Madame Clarkson, I would suggest today that you too possess these same virtues that we respect.
Because, even after your tenure as governor general came to an end, your dedication to the Canadian Forces continued. You were often called upon to attend repatriation ceremonies, bringing a small measure of comfort to families who had just lost a loved one. And your role as colonel-in-chief of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry is one you were given not only out of admiration for what you have done for the Canadian Forces, but also in the knowledge that you would show the same devotion to duty that you demonstrated to the entire country at every meeting with Canadian soldiers.
Just as the office of the governor general has been redefined by every person to hold this position, so too has the role of commander-in-chief grown with each subsequent mandate. During your term, the position took on new significance. I hope to do justice to the title you once held, because there is no greater compliment than to have the respect of those who defend our country.
If I may quote you one last time, during your final address to Canadian troops, you said, “Please remember that you will always be part of me and I hope that I can be part of you.” Time and again, you show us that you will always play a role in the Canadian Forces, and defend Canadian ideals as our troops do every single day. They remain a part of you and you have won acceptance as one of their own.
It is my pleasure and honour to present the 2010 Vimy Award to Madame Adrienne Clarkson.