Having spent my developmental years here, I consider South Western Ontario home.
I am a believer in remembering from whence you came.
To be recognized, here in Windsor, from whence I came is an honor I shall cherish.
Canada is known, identified with and recognized for what we have. Recently we ranked 4th amongst 182 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index.
While Canada enjoys a good reputation for giving, it is disproportionately low to what we have. This is not acceptable.
My aspiration for Canada is to be identified more by what we give than what we have and that giving becomes a cornerstone of our social fabric and a source of national pride.
To make this vision a reality cannot be forced through guilt or pressure, it must be fostered through awareness and motivation. To illustrate, allow me to share with you the reasons I give. There are three primary reasons: First: It is not a choice.
Giving is a responsibility that I have as a citizen. I follow a creed instilled by my parents and articulated by President Clinton "If you can you must" I can therefore I must.
My second reason for giving is out of a profound sense of appreciation. Appreciation for the generosity of community, in the early years after my family emigrated from the Netherlands to Dresden Ontario.
Appreciation for surviving cancer, because of a miracle drug whose development was funded through public donations. I had the privilege of meeting in Israel and throughout North America with leading cancer scientists and researchers.
I share their level of confidence that chemotherapy and radiation, as we now know it, will, in a matter of a few years, be a thing of the past.
Treatment for most forms of cancer will be targeted directly to the cancer cell without harming any other cell. The reality however is, without public funding these discoveries will not happen. I also appreciate the charmed life I live and what I have that others do not.
Last year I witnessed the work and impact of MSF, Dr's Without Borders when I visited their projects in The Republic of The Congo.
There I observed the extreme conditions that exist. It is impossible to reconcile what we have in Canada in every aspect of life to what people there do not have. In one of their projects I saw a miracle.
People in the community went from drinking what can only be described as sludge out of a river to having fresh water thanks to a well drilled by MSF's water sanitation program. This single example reinforced for me the hugh impact that people can make by giving.
My third reason for giving is a selfish one. It makes me happy and there is some evidence that by giving may prolong my life.
For me the joy of giving outweighs the sense of satisfaction in the accumulation of wealth. I am a keen observer of people and assert, based on my albeit crude methodology there are proportionately more unhappy people in our universe.
Some of my indicators are the higher instances of road rage, the constant honking of car horns, the higher incidents of domestic and workplace violence and even the proportion of people walking around with a scowl on their face.
Another assertion is that most of these unhappy people are self centered, do not relate to others and are not likely to give back. A recent study by the University of Michigan concluded that the life expectancy of self centered people is lower than for those who focus on others. Your role in influencing people to give is a challenge, particularly in times such as this.
Yet in times such as this the need grows at a greater rate than the decline in giving. While people can easily rationalize not giving or reducing the amount they give, if they reflect on it as I have, must conclude that the reasons for giving are far more compelling than the rational for not. My belief is if we can get people to reflect on this it becomes a powerful influencer. As, with almost everything, giving is about people.
Regardless of geography, background, ethnicity or circumstance everyone shares common characteristics. We are all human beings who by and large have common values and emotions. This registered with me during my visit to the Congo.
I spent time with a volunteer Doctor in an intensive care unit (a room about a quarter the size of this one, open windows where mothers had to keep flys at bay). One of the mothers, knowing her 8 week old son would die within a matter of hours, negotiated with the Doctor to take the infant off of life support so that she could take him home, which was a 20k walk on a dusty path, to be able to bury him with family.
To watch the tube being removed from her son’s tiny hand and wrapping him in a brilliantly multi colored shawl and carrying him out with the grace, class and dignity of a monarch was a gripping example of human value, emotion and behaviour that we can all relate to.
assert to you that when people view giving as a civic responsibly and do so out of appreciation for what they have that others do not, they will find true happiness which increases their odds for a longer and more fulfilling life.
I congratulate you in what you do and encourage you to help Canada be more identified by what we give than what we have.