Justin Trudeau came to town as the featured speaker for the inaugural fund raising event of the Grace Foundation. The purpose of the evening was to launch a capital campaign to raise funds for much-needed renovations and updates at the Church of St. John & St. Stephen Home that provides tender care for its 80 elderly residents.
Like any older facility, it needs updates and renovations to look after the residents’ needs and provide them comfort and a good quality of life. The ‘Evening with Justin Trudeau’ was the Foundation’s first fund raising event in its multi-year capital campaign to fund major refurbishments at the home including updated decor, new furnishings for residents’ rooms,and improved entertainment and activity facilities for the residents.
The Board of Grace Foundation aims to make every event that it backs dual-purpose: fund raising and meaningful in some way. Hence its decision to sponsor Trudeau to speak to a Saint John audience with his message about education and empowerment of youth for a better society.
Justin Trudeau walked confidently onto the stage in the Imperial Theatre and addressed the audience eloquently and passionately for almost an hour, completely without notes. He was relaxed and casual, sharing frequent touches of humour and connecting with everyone in the hall, from the few teenagers who had come to find out what a young man might have to say to the greater number of older folk who probably had the same idea.
This morning the local media reported on Trudeau’s presence in our area – choosing to speak only about his possible political ambitions and completely ignoring both the reason for his visit to Saint John and his messages about the environment, education and youth.
Trudeau challenged everyone in the audience to consider his or her individual impact on the world at large and to realize that each of us is “making a difference in the world every time we do anything”. With the proliferation of media, electronic and social media communications we truly are a global community, he said. Canada, and western civilization as we know it in general, “draws from every corner of the planet for our needs. We (humanity) have managed to fill up the planet with our footprint.”
He went on to exhort us to be aware that no society, country or individual exists in isolation. It is everyone’s role to broaden our perspectives and to understand the impact of our choices and behaviours, not just for today but for the future and our children and their children. He strongly urged us to empower our young people to challenge the status quo and to teach them the value of being a good citizen of the world.
“Young people want to feel like their actions matter. We all need to matter. We need to be relevant to others and to be valuable to them.”
“Altruism can also be selfish,” he said, “because it makes you feel so good. We as Canadians have the opportunity to model for the world what it means to be ‘a good citizen’ in all respects.”
His message was met with an enthusiastic response from the audience who gave him a standing ovation – and then settled down for a question and answer period. Some of the younger members of the audience asked him to elaborate on his message of youth empowerment while older members focused more on his political genealogy and whether or not he was considering a run at the leadership of the Liberal party formerly headed-up by his well known father. He deftly sidestepped the latter by saying it was a family decision to be considered over the summer months.
Trudeau was billed as a charismatic speaker and he lived up to his billing. Now we will have to wait and see what decisions he makes about his personal and political future. And, should he choose to pursue a more prominent role in politics – will he, or even, can he, remain true to the ideals he spoke of last night? We’ll have to wait and see.