“For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘hold office’; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.”
- John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage
In my short time on this world, I have learned only one thing: people should always voice their opinions in a strong, logical, rational and non-violent manner. It is what I was taught and I believe it is essential for a strong and vital democracy. For, such speech will inform those who listen to it. It will be heard and responded to. In a strong and vital democracy, the best ideas should come to the fore; and with some luck, capable and strong governments will find a way of implementing them.
With that being said, while we all should speak up, we often don’t. We often worry about what our friends and colleagues might say. For social approval is so important. I have been lucky enough to make presentations in a variety of situations. For example, I spoke about 150 people at a Calgary Chamber of Commerce event. Therefore, I can tell that I felt the social pressure in that setting. For some, it could have been overwhelming. However, it is nothing when compared to the speaking to a community, a region or a nation. In many ways, I cannot imagine the pressure that René Lévesque, Pierre Trudeau or Peter Lougheed would have felt. Nor can I understand the strength of people who have re-entered the political fray like Joe Clark and Bob Rae. However, I have the greatest of respect for those who do give so much of themselves.
I have a greater deal of admiration when such a person is younger than me. For, if I have not led a community – being in thirty seventh year – I cannot imagine how difficult it must for someone who is fourteen, fifteen or sixteen. And yet, two young women – Whitney Kropp and Malala Yousafzai- have done so.
Ms. Whitney Kropp overcame the bullying of a community to take on a leadership role. Like so many kids, she was an outsider who was mocked. Some of her classmates thought it would be funny to have her elected the Homecoming Queen. In a small community being the Homecoming Queen meant that one was a “public official” – officiating over a parade and a couple of football games.
What is most interesting about Ms. Kropp is when she was elected to her post; she decided that she was not going to be ridiculed. In fact, she decided that she was going to do her job to the best of her abilities. Whitney was going to make a point of indicating that she would not be bullied. Her message was so strong that she rallied a national behind her. This 16 year old has more than 145,000 likes on her Facebook page and has been in the press in the US, Canada and Europe. Ms. Kropp redefined her role and I just admire that. I am inspired by her strength and only hope that I could be as brave.
With this being said, I am also in awe of a fourteen year old Pakistani girl name Malala Yousafzai. For, she has done what very few people have done: Ms. Yousafzai has stood up to the violent, political group known as the Taliban. This young lady did something that the Pakistani Military could not do. Unlike her countries politicians and judges, Ms. Yousafzai chose to defy a group who used violence, assassinations and intimidation to impose their will.
The most impressive aspect of her story was that she did this without any protective force. Ms. Yousafzai’s did not ever go into hiding. She stood alone against a group of people who violently subdued much of Afghanistan. Unlike Salman Rushdie, who received the help of the British Secret Service, Malala stood alone. Such a stand gave her much power and clout in her home country and she was, at fourteen, a serious political figure. This is probably why her foes attempted to assassinate her this week.
These two girls are amazing. As Canadians, I think we should take something from their examples. We should pledge to get more involved in our own communities. As Canadians, we should pledge to ourselves, and each other, to talk about the issues of the day. As Canadians, we should want to resolve the issues on our present agenda.
This should be especially true for the Liberal Party of Canada. Since our fall from grace in 2006, our party has been a party that has been scared. We have been scared to talk about policy and what we should stand for. We have been scared to talk about our past and even more terrified to talk about our future. Here in Calgary, we do not want to talk about the words and deeds of Brown, Trudeau, Pearson, Laurier and St. Laurent. For others, might use those policies or deeds against us.
In fact, one can see the fear in our inability to define who we are. It is funny how many times, I have heard the mantra: “everything will change when we choose a new leader”. Or in other words, when a new leader is chosen, he/she will bring forth new policy ideas and a new vision. It is as if we forgot that George Brown – a Liberal, a Grit – forced Sir John A. MacDonald into the Charlottetown and Quebec City Conferences. Conferences which would eventually bring about the British North America Act and the country we call Canada. It is as if we forget that the boldness of the Party brought forth the St. Laurence Seaway, the Royal Canadian Navy or the Trans-Canadian Highway. These are all Liberal accomplishments. Today, we need to take the examples of Whitney Kropp and Malala Yousafzai and be strong enough to talk about the hard issues.
As a party, we need to discuss the needs of the “Other”. We need to talk about how to build affordable housing and improve our social safety net. We, as a Party, need to be able to talk to corporations, investors and entrepreneurs about rebuilding and rearranging our infrastructure. We need to ask ourselves how we can build a better society. All of these conversations about the “Other” will mean trade-offs and compromises. However, it is my contention that if we make those compromises, the resulting opportunities should lift all boats.
Therefore, a courageous Liberal Party can once again provide opportunity for all. This is what I have learned from this week. That Courage and Strength can provide our Party with the necessary grit to move forward. This is some of what I have learned from Whitney Kropp and Malala Yousafzai. I hope that you share my wish and get excited about our Party’s future.
A PDF of this article can be found at http://www.scribd.com/doc/109994861