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Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11

Here is a speech Lieutenant Governor Lois Hole delivered to the assembled masses celebrating Remembrance Day at the Butterdome on November 11, 2003. Her words here, perhaps unsurprisingly, echo my own feelings.

Ladies and Gentlemen—
I’ll begin today by thanking the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation for a new initiative that will help all Canadians remember those who gave their lives for freedom. The Foundation is creating remarkable posters that pay visual tribute to our soldiers, posters that will remind us of their sacrifice.

It is a tremendously important project, because, after all, the lessons of history are lost if we allow our memories to die, even if those memories cause terrible grief. So to founder Mark Norman and everyone else who made the project a reality, I offer gratitude and congratulations. You’ve done history a great service.
Art alone, of course, cannot keep the past alive; we need to keep the memory of the fallen in our hearts, and we need to pass that respect down to each generation. That is why, every year, we continue to recognize those who came to Canada’s defence in the hours of her greatest need.
The 20th century was wracked by terrible wars time and again, but each time, without fail, Canada’s sons and daughters heard the call and restored peace and order to our world. And as the 21st century dawns, these brave and loyal soldiers continue to give up their lives as they try to bring peace, freedom, and stability to the world’s poorest, most desperate people.

We can never truly repay our veterans for their heroism, but we can, and must, remember it. Not just for the sake of honouring the fallen, but for the sake of the millions of people on our planet—the current generation of Canadians among them—who have never had to endure the horrors of war, thanks to their sacrifices. 
November 11 is the most significant national event of the year, for without Remembrance Day—or rather without the soldiers who gave us cause to create Remembrance Day—we might not be celebrating the other national holidays we enjoy. We might not have reason to celebrate anything at all.
Remembrance Day is one of our country’s most important and solemn rituals, an event that pays tribute to those who died in defence of our freedoms, and the surviving veterans who continue to be haunted by the memories of war. It is the duty of every Canadian to respect and honour the contributions of our soldiers.
But at the same time, we have a still greater duty, an obligation to ensure that the efforts of our veterans were not in vain. For if we remember what our soldiers endured, perhaps we will someday find the wisdom to put war behind us.
The great American general and later President Dwight Eisenhower, certainly no pacifist, nonetheless recognized the tremendous waste and loss of human potential inherent in war. At a speech in 1953, he said:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
Eisenhower was right. Each war must be seen as a great failure of human imagination: a failure to identify the root causes of war, a failure to accommodate the genuine needs and grievances of our neighbours, a failure to address the conditions that give rise of dictatorships, a failure to repudiate violence as a means of effecting change.

Our soldiers pay the price for our lack of imagination, and if we ever hope to close that bloody account, then we must find a way to bring lasting prosperity and freedom to all the peoples of the world.
Peace will never come until all human beings enjoy good food, clean water, strong shelter, excellent schools, modern hospitals, fully stocked libraries, and the fundamental freedoms that we in the Western world take for granted. 
Therefore, the best way to remember the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers is to keep working towards the day when all human beings will at last put aside their petty differences and live as we were meant to: in peace. To do that, we must fight and win one last war: the war on poverty and ignorance.
And given their dedication, bravery, and compassion, I have no doubt that Canadian soldiers will be leading the way, as they always have.

So this Remembrance Day, I believe all of us should do two things: we should pay our respects to the thousands of Canadian soldiers who gave their lives for freedom, and then we should look for ways to ensure that one day, we can enjoy peace and prosperity without those sacrifices. It is the only meaningful way to pay the debt we owe our veterans.

1 comment:

"The Jeffeling" said...

I think that was an excellent speech!