Monday, November 24, 2008

Nation builders?

Continuing on the theme of my last blog... this Saturday the Globe and Mail ran an editorial about nation builders. Apparently each year the paper solicits nominations of "those among us who have made a special contribution to Canada as a nation".

Past nominees seem to be rather in line with the Globe's reader demographics - i.e. banker philanthropist Don Johnson, politician Ed Broadbent and Mike Lazaridis, the blackberry guy. Others are people known for their bravery or courage under fire, the likes of Maher Arar, paraolympian Chantal Petitclerc and an Armed Forces sergeant.

But what is a nation builder? One could argue that a man who invented a device that has changed the speed at which business and politics are conducted, a device that seems a necessity for anybody who's anybody in Ottawa, has certainly influenced Canada or least Canadian way of life. But does that make him a nation builder?

This has got me wondering about what makes a national hero, or even a personal one. The people who I have admired and who inspire me are rarely public figures. They are friends or acquaintances who have touched me with their generosity and wisdom. They have qualities I admire and they have inspired me to give back, slow down or reach out... But I do not know if I would call any one of them my 'hero'.

I read once that one should seek out heroes. But that has always seemed like somewhat of a romantic notion. No one is perfect and I believe it is dangerous to put anyone on a pedestal. They higher we raise them, the farther they have to fall when we realize they, like all of us, are fallible.

So do I really want a hero? I'm not so sure. I still would like to see a political figure like Obama here in Canada - a person who inspires, challenges and raises people out of their apathy and political disillusionment. And I think it is good to recognize people who have made significant contributions to communities and nations, just as it is a good reminder to me to acknowledge the people in my own life who have taught and inspired me.

So while I can't say I agree with all of the Globe's nominated 'nation builders', I applaud the initiative. As a global recession looms and the papers are full of doom and predictions of failure, it was nice to read something which got me thinking about something a bit more positive.

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