Manley calls for new ideas, new energy

Today’s graduates have the potential to make the world a better place, said John Manley, Canadian Council of Chief Executives president.

Manley spoke to 476 graduates from the Faculty of Social Science and Faculty of Science at the Wednesday, June 13 afternoon session of Western’s 299th Convocation.

Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws upon Manley in recognition of his dedication to public service, both as a politician and private citizen.

“Each of you embarks today on an adventure. Whatever the path, you are leaving this campus at a time of great global change,” Manley told the graduates. “It is an exciting time. Your generation is called upon for fresh thinking, new ideas and new energy.”

Manley, who has led a successful career as a lawyer, was elected as a federal Member of Parliament in 1988, re-elected three times, and has over a decade held a number of cabinet positions under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. As Minister of Industry, he played a key role in the “wired classroom initiative” that aimed to bridge the digital divide. Manley is also responsible for policies that have increased the level of government support for university-based research.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Manley was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. He had inherited one of the most trying appointments in modern Canadian political history, dealing with the aftermath of the attacks and Canada’s subsequent decision not to support the United States’ invasion of Iraq. It was Manley’s diplomatic skill that maintained a positive working relationship at the sub-chief executive level. In recognition of his success, Manley was appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Canada in 2002. He was later appointed Minister of Finance.

Manley’s public service did not end when he left politics in 2004. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty appointed him to lead a review of the province’s electricity sector. The following year, he co-chaired the Task Force on the Future of North America for the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Manley to lead a panel reviewing the future of Canada’s mission and role in Afghanistan.

Manley told the graduates they must choose their own destiny and look for a vocation in life, not just a job.

“Each of us has the ability to choose, on a daily basis. We can drift with the tides and see where they can take us or we can rise every morning and say ‘I choose to make a difference for good,’” he said.

In his citation, Political Science professor Charles Jones said Manley is “an exemplar of the very fines sort of Canadian values.”

“He stands for hard work, integrity and a commitment to viewing Canada as a player on the world’s stage. He has served his country with distinction, often through difficult circumstances, and always with a vision of the enduring goals of international cooperation, tolerance, reason and the public good,” Jones said.

Manley added graduates should strive for ambition, not just for themselves.

“We need people who are prepared to work to make Canada and the world at least a tiny bit better. Seek to make a difference in the world. Embrace a sense of global responsibility and mission. It is your choice. You are our hope.”