This is my Canada.
It was 1980. My parents had gathered me and my three brothers into our family station wagon to go see Terry Fox run. He ran past us on Highway 2, east of Toronto, as we gathered roadside. Thirty-seven years later, the sound of rubbing metal, followed by a grunt, a scrape and a thump as his prosthetic leg hit the ground lingers in my mind.
Last week I went to an event at First Canadian Place and stumbled upon the 50 at 150 art exhibit. This painting sent me back to that moment in time. Thirty-seven years later, I flashed back to the sights and sounds of that day.
Terry Fox’s dream and relentless commitment to his vision are the epitome of what it means to be Canadian.
Are we perfect? No.
Are we humble? Not exactly.
We are bigger than that. We are diverse.
If we are to nurture diversity, it will require a fierce commitment to values that transcend the individual needs of any one person, or any one group. Terry Fox knew this. He wasn’t running for his own comfort, or his own physical healing. He was running for his vision of a future where more is possible. And it is.
Like Terry Fox, people are starting to look to Canada as a collective example of what is possible.
The question is – are we ready to rise to the occasion and be that kind of leader? From what I’ve seen recently from our political leaders, we may be. Whether it was John Tory, the mayor of Toronto, speaking at the Toronto Regional Board of Trade last week, or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s speech on Parliament Hill in Ottawa today, our leaders seem ready.
What I find most encouraging is they don’t pretend to be perfect. Increasingly, they acknowledge our past challenges. At the same time, their resolve to move their respective constituencies forward into an age of leadership remains undiminished.
We need to value authenticity over hubris when we choose our leaders.
Posturing, preening, and pretense of perfection are not requirements of leadership. They are the precursors of chaos.
So while the media is having a hey-day over Justin Trudeau’s omission of Alberta in his speech today, I’m appreciating that he moved quickly to acknowledge his mistake and apologize. On stage in front of millions. At his first opportunity.
The true character of a leader is revealed in how they respond to their mistakes.
Real leaders acknowledge they are human. And you know what humans do? They make mistakes. The true character of a leader is revealed in how they handle their mistakes.
So while Trudeau’s gaffe will no doubt fan the flames of the regionalism that is the invisible Canadian divide, I have faith that Canada at 150 will survive it. We must be bigger than that. Because really, in the grand scheme of things, what do we have to be divided about?
Canada is the future. Canada is now. Tout est possible in Canada. As it is being said around the world, the world needs more Canada.
As the spotlight is on us, which version of Canada will we become? Let’s choose the version Terry Fox represents: full of grit and determination in pursuit of a universal goal.
Happy 150 to all Canadians, and everyone who shares our spirit, everywhere.
Related podcast episode: The World Needs Powerful Authentic Leadership NOW
[Please note – I have been all over the internet, trying to track down the name of the artist of this painting. If you know, please leave a comment so I can make the appropriate accreditation.]