The Power of Symbolism

The Globe And Mail for September 28, 2005
The Globe And Mail for September 28, 2005

There’s some good news from Canada today in the form of the swearing in of its 27th Governor-General, Michaëlle Jean. Her appointment appears to have struck a chord with many Canadians, whose vision for their country’s future includes many of the principles and values personified by this new head of state.

The following excerpt comes from John Ibbitson’s column on the front page of today’s Globe And Mail (The remarkable new Governor-General):

Canadians seem to be celebrating this appointment as though it really mattered, as though the Governor-General were something other than merely the Queen’s representative, the titular commander of the armed forces, a cutter of ribbons and a deliverer of clichéd speeches whose powers are held mostly in reserve. Why?

In part it is because she is not a politician. Her job, by definition, is to remain above the gritty, grubby business of governing this messy federation.

But there’s more to it. Not since the 1960s have our political leaders seemed so irrelevant, so disconnected. Then, it was a society of youth seeking to demolish outdated moral and social strictures. Today it is a society of immigrants seeking to create the world’s most cosmopolitan society. Then they turned to Pierre Trudeau. Today they turn to . . ..

There is no one to turn to.

But here is this beautiful young Canadian of Haitian birth, with a smile that makes you catch your breath, with a bemused older husband by her side, and a daughter who literally personifies our future, and you look at them and you think: Yes, this is our great achievement, this is the Canada that Canada wants to be.

And suddenly, the arguments of the nationalists and the sovereigntists and the fire-wallists, of the alienated and resentful and estranged, are so tired, so yesterday, that you just don’t want to have to listen to them any more.

Yes, indeed. French and English stop your quarreling. It just doesn’t matter any more.

One thought on “The Power of Symbolism”

  1. This is rather inspiring, isn’t it?
    Perhaps America could appoint a good-will ambassador equivalent.

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