Your Excellencies, Mr. and Mrs. Johnston,
David, Sharon; Mr. Speakers, distinguished guests, I’d like to start by thanking you
all for giving me the opportunity to say a few words on this special, special occasion.
Now I’ve known the Governor General since I was a kid, from visiting him and his daughters
when he was principal of McGill, to spending time on the ice or the slopes at their family
home in the Laurentians. And I’ve always known him to be a man of strength, intelligence,
and compassion. But getting to know someone as a family friend
or a friend of your father’s is very different from having the honour of working alongside
them. So, it has been a true honour since the beginning of my mandate to come to know
the Governor General, not only as a friendly neighbour, quite literally, but as a man of
integrity who embodies the principles for which our country stands.
A fellow educator and lifelong learner, his Excellency has dedicated his life to public service.
Whether it was at McGill or at Rideau Hall, his career has been marked by his willingness
to give back to a country that has given us all so much to be thankful for.
A number of people in this room have followed a career similar to that of
the Governor General. Many among us found our vocation in the public service. So when
we look back on the mandate of his Excellency and think about the legacy he is leaving,
we can draw some very useful lessons about how to fulfill our responsibilities. But I
would just like to emphasize one point that, in my view, is tremendously important; last
year, I learned that for the past ten years, his Excellency has written every morning to
Canadians across the country. Acquaintances, colleagues, strangers, students, friends,
children, grandchildren. The number of correspondents that his Excellency has had over the years
is quite surprising. For his Excellency, that correspondence was, more than anything else,
a tool for better understanding and getting to know this country and its inhabitants.
Letter by letter he sought to be challenged and taught by his fellow citizens. Letter
by letter, he connected in deeply meaningful ways with many of the people in this country
he chose to serve, to fulfill his responsibility to them as best he could. This speaks to the
character of our Governor General. It is a testament to his dedication to Canada, and
to all Canadians. Through his example, we are reminded of how
important it is to maintain a strong connection with people from all walks of life throughout
the country. They are and always will be, the reason why we do what we do.
And as we do what we do, I always need to reflect on the fact that if I am able to keep
my feet squarely planted on the ground, it is because I have a partner at my side who
keeps me that way, and Sophie, and I know that through these seven years, Sharon has
been an extraordinary source of strength for the Governor General.
(Sustained applause) But also and make no mistake on this, an incredible
servant to Canadians herself with her leadership, her activities, her unbelievably packed schedule.
(Applause) Sharon has indelibly made her mark as part
of the service of Rideau Hall, and of the institution of Governor General to this country,
and I personally am so deeply grateful that you have been such a great friend to us and
to Sophie when David is as busy as he is. Since becoming Prime Minister, I have been
extremely fortunate to work alongside this Governor General; thank you David for demanding
of me all my attention, all that is required, all my excellence, in everything you’ve
done, in all our interactions. On behalf of all Canadians, I need to express
my deepest gratitude to their Excellencies for their many, many contributions to Canada;
together you have made this country an even better place to call home.
Thank you my friends.