Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean Speech on the Occasion of the 15th Annual National Aboriginal Achievement Awards
Toronto, Friday, March 7, 2008
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If you only knew how much I have been looking forward to joining you this evening.
Particularly since the theme you have chosen this year has given me hope that we will unite voices, knowledge, hearts and minds.I would like to take this opportunity to salute the Métis, Inuit and First Nations communities represented here tonight.
As you know, I was born on an island, where legends shape our relationship with the universe.
And I was delighted to find here, in my adopted homeland, your own legends that enrich the heritage of humanity.
I’d like to share with you now a legend from the Inuit people, which I have also shared with my daughter.
It is the story of a mosquito that one day lands on the arm of a young boy.
“Don’t hit me, don’t hit me!” the mosquito buzzed. “I must sing for my grandchildren.”
Imagine that. That little mosquito was a grandfather, and an entire line of mosquitoes depended on him.
“Just think,” the young boy said, “he is so small and already a grandfather.”
The mosquito then told him that the song conveyed the idea of transmission—the transmission of ancient wisdom, of traditional knowledge.
And so it was that the young boy learned an important lesson from the mosquito.
That, big or small, we all have a responsibility to those who follow in our footsteps.
The responsibility to be a role model.
The responsibility to pass down, by our example, what we know, what we have learned from our own experience and that of the women and men who have come before us.
That is how the cycle of life continues without end, like the never-ending circle that unites us.
That is how humanity is renewed, generation after generation.
That is what we can learn from the wisdom of those who first inhabited this land and celebrated its riches.
I am convinced that the present is enriched by the experience of the past.
And that the achievements of some can truly inspire others.
The women and men we are honouring tonight encourage those around them, particularly youth, to go after their dreams and strive to make a difference for the benefit of us all.
You represent a sense of commitment, a desire to excel, caring for others, passion, a willingness to explore knowledge and life in all its dimensions.
I have a wish, and I would like to share it with you tonight.
And that wish is for Aboriginal youth, who sometimes feel as though their future is closed off to them, who feel torn between tradition and a modern world, to see in you a glimmer of hope, a way forward, the inspiration to reach for the stars.
It is my wish that all young people, in Canada and around the world, see in you reason enough to persevere and reach their highest potential.
Congratulations to each and every one of you. Enjoy the rest of the show!
I am proud of you. Remember that your success is a success for all Canadians.