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Honorary degree citation - Adrienne Clarkson

By: Frederick H. Lowy, June 2004

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Her Excellency The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, writer, broadcaster, journalist, public servant, activist and agent of change.

While noble things in darkness grope,
The Statesman's aim, the Poet's hope,
The Patriot's impulse gathers fire,
And germs of future fruits aspire.

Forty years ago, when Adrienne Clarkson wrote her master's thesis on the poems of George Meredith, one wonders what she might have felt as this stanza from his poem, "The Sleeping City" passed before her eyes. Meredith's virtuosic blending of social dilemma and striking imagery may well have helped inspire the mission of her life, and his words, perhaps, sparked within her the Patriot's fire, that has gathered strength ever since.

Adrienne Clarkson est née en 1939, à Hong-Kong. Réfugiée de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, sa famille immigrait au Canada trois ans plus tard. Mme Clarkson a fait ses études à Ottawa jusqu'en 1956 où elle a fréquenté le Collège Trinity de l'Université de Toronto. Après avoir remporté la Médaille d'or du Gouverneur général en anglais, elle a poursuivi sa formation en faisant une maîtrise, suivie d'études supérieures à la Sorbonne, à Paris.

Her driving curiosity about the world led her broadcast journalism. Here her genius for communicating complex matters with simple precision and honesty ensured a successful and varied career. She has been host, writer and producer of several influential CBC-TV programs, including Take Thirty, Adrienne at Large, The Fifth Estate, and Adrienne Clarkson Presents... wherein she created a platform for the Canadian artistic and cultural experience:

Always, behind each story, fuelling its relevance was Madame Clarkson's image of Canada as a place where diversity flourishes, where cultural differences give rise to new ideas of society, where knowledge of the broader world can be dispersed truthfully and without bias or condescension. Her life is testament to the realization of the Canadian ideal, the democratic ideal, the ideal of a free and accepting society.

Mme Clarkson qui, lorsqu'elle était journaliste, a toujours exhorté les Canadiens et les Canadiennes à appréhender la richesse et la complexité du monde extérieur, exhorte aujourd'hui le monde, en qualité de Gouverneur général du Canada, à apprécier la richesse de notre pays. Par sa vivacité, son intégrité et son énergie, elle a renouvelé le rôle de Gouverneur général et lui a insufflé une nouvelle raison d'être en exaltant partout dans le monde la diversité culturelle du Canada, ses réalisations artistiques et la fierté d'appartenir à ce grand et beau pays.

Madame Clarkson has also worked hard in her post to bridge the fault lines that historically have threatened to separate us as Canadians. She spends a great deal of time working on aboriginal issues, on anti-racism and on our chronic linguistic tensions. As is well known, she spends a great deal of time in Quebec City, her official home outside Ottawa. She is easily the most traveled Governor General to date, working tirelessly to promote and inspire her vision of Canada.

This vision of Canada is not only reserved for foreign leaders and political figures, but also, for families such as the Miskew family, one of the thousands of immigrant families who have made Canada their home. Last spring they celebrated their 100th year in Canada. Madame Clarkson wrote to them on that happy occasion:

The families that come to Canada from every corner of the globe have added their unique design to our nation's mosaic. They bring their traditions and culture, their skills and talents, and their hopes for a better life... they push past the limits of their knowledge and the challenges of a new land, and their dream of the future transforms them into Canadians.

This thought recalls another of George Meredith's verses:

Thou that dreamest an Event,
While Circumstance is but a waste of sand,
Arise, take up thy fortunes in thy hand,
And daily forward pitch thy tent.

We, at Concordia University, as all Canadians, are delighted and exhilarated as we watch with awe as Madame Clarkson pitches her tent forward, transforming each field she enters into something big enough to accommodate her dreams. As we watch her, we think not only what is possible within ourselves, but that we are so fortunate to live in a country where those possibilities may become real. We grow prouder to be Canadian. We are grateful that our titular head of state is Adrienne Clarkson and we wait with bated breath to see what she will do next.

For her vision, her voice and her strength Concordia University is honoured to recognize her today.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson, so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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