This is graduation week in our house. Two of our three girls are having their convocation- April's was yesterday and Alannah's is on Friday.
Yesterday's event was at the University of Western Ontario (Western). They chose to honor Phil Fontaine with an honorary degree and his remarks reminded me of how important his contribution has been to the advancement of aborignal people in Canada and abroad.
I met Phil Fontaine very briefly a number of years ago at the first State of the World Forum. In our short conversation, I was struck by what I nice guy he is. Very intellingent, easy to talk to, down to earth were three of the qualities that came through in our brief chat.
It wasn't hard to see why he has been such a successful bridge-maker.
Yesterday, Western did a good job reminding the audience of Fontaine's achievements. He is a three-term National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, a record that has never been equalled.
He has been passionate in building better communities, advocating for well-being, and has established ground breaking innovations in education, child and family services and alcohol and addiction treatment on reserves across the country.
His message yesterday was for a broader audience than the 500 or so graduates assembled:
"A lot is riding on the decisions you will make and the leadership you will provide. Making your mark on the world is hard, if it was easy everybody would do it, but it’s not. It takes patience, commitment and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction.
“Don’t let people talk you into doing what is easy or comfortable. Listen to what is inside of you and decide what it is you care about so much that you’re willing to risk it all. There are some betting against you. Prove them wrong.”
Phil Fontaine has proven that visionary leadership knows no boundaries. Anyone, with commitment, passion and tenacity, can make a difference. I was so happy that my daughter was in the audience yesterday to hear the inspiring words of this great man.
© Patrick O’Neill 2010. All rights reserved