It was the type of speech which may have had many St. F.X. students in the audience, of any year, heading directly to the service learning offices the following day, eager to make a difference somewhere in the world or at home.
Lieutenant-General, the Hon. Roméo Dallaire was the keynote speaker for the XTalks evening, Sept. 5 at the Keating Centre, and his speech was, in a fashion, a call to arms to the 18 to 27-year-old generation, to take advantage of the their “power.”
“You’re a generation that has mastered the technology of communication … you’re already global,” he said, amongst his inspirational and empowering words.
“You can hear, see, in real time, really, the whole of humanity. You have now, in your hands, a power we never had to influence; to move significantly a power based influence. To be activists like never before.”
Dallaire also stressed, as Canadians, that power is enhanced as the country’s established values and morals are recognized and respected globally.
“Now what do we do with it … where do we go with it?” he asked rhetorically.
“The world is there waiting for you to engage, so get off your butts and influence the situation … use your power in this great democracy.”
He gave a hint of those messages when talking to reporters prior to his speech.
“Light a fire; not underneath them [students in the audience], as the expression is to get them going, but light a separate flame inside themselves that will guide them into doing something that is far more than just going through the normalcy of life,” he said. “A flame of passion for something; discover and nurture it. I hope to be able to instill that in them.”
He talked about the aforementioned generation having the “balance of power in our democracy.”
“They must now become activists and use that power because the generations ahead of them are too slow and not able to adjust to the complexities and ambiguities of the things we’re facing now,” he said. “Things are shifting too fast for us to grasp. Electronic means – that revolution, as it matures, it will give them so many more tools than we ever had in order to make change.”
In his speech, Dallaire began with the word ‘vigour’ used prominently.
“We’re at an institution where we want to bring vigour to our thinking, vigour to how we look at problems and to the solutions to those problems,” he said as part of his opening lines.
The word ‘optimistic’ was also sprinkled throughout the speech, including as a reference to this nation still “growing.”
“I often worry at times that this nation doesn’t realize it has all this potential,” he said. “That we’re holding back and I fear we’re holding back the youth from actually maximizing what they can do and exploding into the future with all that potential they have.”
He talked about older generations offering the support to let the younger generation go, thrive and “get their boots dirty.”
“There should be, I believe, in the end, a rite of passage after you finish your undergraduate degree that you should have, underneath your bed, a pair of boots or sneakers that have been soiled by the earth of a developing country where you went and saw and learned and smelled and touched and tasted what is happening to 80 per cent of humanity,” Dallaire said. “And you bring that back and it influences you for the rest of your life because you live with a passion for humanity.
“That, to me, is an objective which should exist for the youth of this nation … to influence the world.”